Have you ever been caught between a ‘rock and a hard place,’ having to make a choice between ‘doing what’s right’ versus ‘making someone happy?’ I know I have. And I’m here to tell you that I have waffled between both sides, not always being consistent with the path I’ve chosen. What I painfully came to realize is that I lacked a compass – a barometer, so to speak – to help guide my decisions.
While I wanted the “stars to align” so that the right decision also made others happy, I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes these goals will be in direct conflict with each other.
So How Do You Know “What’s Right?”
Folks, this is the million dollar question!! And my goal with this blog is to help you answer it.
Let’s start with some simple, personal examples on my part. I don’t like to dance. I have two left feet. My wife loves to dance. She can dance in her sleep. When we first starting dating, she was very eager to teach me how to dance. Though I wasn’t too happy about it, I took on dancing, because I knew it would make her happy. Was it the right call? One could argue, but I say absolutely. It made her happy, it bonded our relationship even further, and I found that I wasn’t as bad at dancing as I thought I was. All in all, this call helped my primary goal which was to grow our relationship.
Now let’s get a little more complex. I often form personal relationships with the people I work with in leadership consulting. These individuals are not only my clients, I also consider many to be my friends. As with all of my friends, their overall happiness is very important to me. But it is more critical that I, as a leadership consultant, hold doing ‘what’s right’ and ‘best’ for the company as my primary objective and responsibility.
Yes, I have made recommendations that impacted friends. While very, very difficult at times, I knew and know that making the right decision for the good of the company is where I have to sway, like it or not. And my “internal compass” never allowed me to lose sight of that primary goal.
Finding Your “Internal Compass” to Doing What’s Right
So how do you find your “internal compass” to weigh the best decision even if it adversely affects others – including bosses, co-workers and friends? The answer is . . . by never losing sight of your purpose.
By that, I mean understanding why you were hired in the first place. What does your company need you to do? How will your actions further these goals? Now, I’m not telling you to be ruthless at all costs. I’m simply telling you that in the grand scheme of things, you need to make sound decisions based on your purpose within the workplace.
Balance the needs of the workplace first and the needs of others second, and you’ll find an easier time of making the right decision. Sometimes these decisions align perfectly such as choosing to groom a “high performer” for additional opportunity. The employee benefits with growth and the company benefits with building a future leader. Or sometimes these decisions result in letting staff go so that the organization can continue.
I’m not saying these decisions are any easier or less stressful with an “internal compass.” But you will stand more firmly by your decision which, in many ways, will ensure that decision was the right one to make.
6 Principles to Build Your “Internal Compass”
- Be clear on why ‘doing what’s right’ is so important. Be clear on the benefits behind doing what’s right and remind yourself often. It will give you the courage you need to follow through when you are challenged and find yourself wanting to back out.
- Embrace the fact that no matter what you do, someone is not going to be happy. Said differently, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. It is literally impossible. But you can try to do the right thing all of the time.
- Be swift and vigilant about doing what’s right. Ever hear of ‘analysis paralysis?’ Well it’s exactly the same when it comes to ‘what if I hurt someone’s happiness analysis.’ Focusing on how someone might feel versus doing what’s right will stop you in your tracks every time. In Nike’s terms, ‘just do it.’
- Business and performance focus takes precedence over people’s feelings. The reality in the workplace is that it is a workplace. Business decisions and doing what’s right around business decisions and performance MUST take precedence and priority. It sounds so cold but it is a fact. To be clear, we must take care of our people. Sometimes however, employee ‘happiness’ will be impacted because of ‘right’ business decisions.
- Don’t second guess yourself. Embrace the fact that ‘doing what’s right’ is going to be received uncomfortably by some. Telling yourself that this is going to be difficult will help you own and take it on.
- Calibrate and get re-assurance from others that what you are really doing is Make sure who you include is not personally involved themselves. It will give you much more peace of mind in the long run and help objectify you.
Your Leadership Challenge
Don’t own ‘doing what’s right’ by yourself. Finding your “internal compass” takes practice and application. I always recommend seeking help in the beginning from trusted confidantes. Use them as a sounding board as you weigh the pro’s and con’s. This process alone will help reinforce your own belief that you are making the right decision.
I’m Here to Help You Own It
Privately send me your challenges, questions and comments. I can’t guarantee I’ll have all the answers, but I will be candid, truthful and genuine. All of us can inspire, lead and achieve and drive higher performance and organizational health if we simply work at it.