Especially when no one is looking…

“Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.  But especially when no one is looking”

– George Devine

I was recently having a conversation with several of my colleagues when the subject of parental impact and lasting nuggets of wisdom/guidance was broached in conversation.  One of those at the table, Lindsay Hale, offered the quote above as one she took from her father’s words and actions, remaining with her today.  I found it so profound that I asked if I could use it as my leadership quote for this month’s message.

Do the right thing

While it may seem a bit cliché, I have always loved this axiom.  It’s simple and straight forward.  Do the right thing.  But oh, how difficult it is to live by.  Life comes at you with such velocity, bringing challenges and opportunities, all of it requiring difficult choices.  Often, the easy path is to take short cuts, to compromise, or to do what’s in our own personal interests. 

On the other hand, the right path is generally the more difficult one.  It doesn’t follow short cuts but requires your full commitment.  It shuns compromise, and gives no extra credit for incorporating morals, ethics, or values.  And it requires us to balance both the instinct of self-preservation and the impact our decisions might have on others. 

In relationships, that means thinking of others as much as you think of yourself.  Give as much as you take.  Reach out, embrace, and connect.  Protect, defend, and support.  Offer gratitude, appreciation, and respect.  But for most of us, we aren’t naturally wired that way.  Our instincts kick in with a focus on our own wellbeing.  Not in a malicious way, but with a lack of awareness of the impact our choices will have on others. 

In business, that means taking the high ground.  Knowing the broader picture and contemplating the impact of decisions and actions on the whole of the team/organization vs the individual.  It means operating under a code of ethics, a set of values, and the purpose and principles that define the company.  Short term gains are never long-term successes if they compromise these fundamentals.  That applies to every aspect of your operations – your clients, your suppliers, your competitors, and your fellow team members. 

Even when no one is looking.  But especially when no one is looking.

All of which makes the second part of George’s quote so profound – “…even when no one is looking.  But especially when no one is looking”.  It’s hard enough to do the right thing, but the presence of others provides a temperament that can govern behavior in the right direction.  Yet when no one is looking, it’s much more tempting to take the easy way out.  To take the short cuts, compromise too much, and act in our own self-interest. 

But if you can develop the discipline to do the right thing when you are alone – especially when you are alone – you are well ahead of the game.  Doing so reflects awareness of the impact your decision has on others, and yourself.  Better to take the right path, however difficult it is, and be comfortable that you don’t have to look over your shoulder wondering when it will catch up to you. 

So, Lindsay and George – I, too, will aspire to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.  But especially when no one is looking.  It won’t be easy, and I’m sure I’ll stumble more times than not, but its sound advice worth following.  Thank you so much for sharing. 

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