When it comes to dealing with the dark side of corporate success, each of us must think carefully about what we want to change in our lives. We need to accept the fact that awareness is not understanding, and as Marshall Goldsmith, in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Hyperion, 2007, notes “there is an enormous disconnect between understanding and doing.” If we are going to do something, then we have to embrace the process, not just the idea. I learned this in an airport many years ago.
I was flying through the Kansas City airport and I knew I was traveling too much when the person at the check-in counter recognized me and greeted me by first name. It was a Friday afternoon, and I was glad to be headed home on my last flight. Once through security, I found my gate and sat down to write up my final notes of the day.
One thing I like to do in airports is to watch people. It is amazing how diverse we are as a species. On that particular afternoon, I was impressed by a young man who came strutting into the airport with a small entourage of people. Dressed to the nines and tens, and carrying a small, silver colored metal brief case which at best could only carry a couple of sheets of paper, it was like the arrival of royalty. After an extended period of saying good bye, getting his ticket and strolling through security, I was surprised to see him walk over to my gate and sit down.
Once the crowd had left, I looked up and noticed he was crying. These was not a couple of tears rolling down the cheek cry but a full blown release of grief. When I noticed him wiping away his tears on his very expensive suit, I got up and gave him my kleenex pack that I was carrying with me. After I returned back to my seat to wait for the plane, it did not feel like such a good idea to people watch any more. In particular, I wanted to respect this man’s private moment of grief.
Next thing, I knew he was sitting next to me and asking if we could talk. “Been a rough day, has it?,” I asked. “Did you loose a major business deal?”
“No,” he replied. “I broke a promise.” The two of us just sat there quietly for a bit and let his words sink in. There are some promises that we make that should never be broken. When they are, it takes a long time before we can recover, heal and be forgiven.
On that Friday afternoon, he shared his story with me. He realized that he had made a profound error in judgement and with it came deep grief and shame. To this day, I do not know what happened next but his words, “I broke a promise” still travel with me. Corporate success can be blinding, addictive and corruptive unless we have a strong sense of personal mission, core values and perspective. It can lead us into compromising situations.
This week and during this spring into summer time period, reaffirm your promises, maintain your sense of personal clarity, and commit to healthy habits that allow you to stay true to who you are.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257