One of my most popular chapters in my book where I described an army experience that ended with us running up a hill, seemingly, to our death. It was a terrible experience of being wet & cold and sore & miserable, yet exhilarating because of having to dig deep and lead my team up …
Into the unknown
Success on the top of that hill meant leaping off of the edge of the cliff and into thin air. I jumped that day, jumped into the unknown because I trusted my leaders, had faith in myself and didn’t want to let down my team. I did not die on that hill and we all succeeded.
Many years later I did find the proverbial hill on which I would die. A hill piled high with loss of trust, being let down and letting others down by an organization I worked for, loved, and took great personal value from.
No organization is perfect and I had seen examples of what I felt were less than ethical behaviour. But, my boss and the organization’s structure insulated me and as it did not directly impact my small part of the world I chose that I would not die on that hill.
Unethical behaviour is insidious.
Over time it eventually oozed into my world and began to impact my conduct. What once insulated me was gone. A new boss and a series of organizational changes brought me more and more in contact with conduct that did not sit well with me. That hill I could once ignore grew into a mountain in front of me and began to directly impact my team and me.
We were facing a large organizational change, the goals of which I agreed: but how it was being done was upsetting. I caught those leading the changes in unethical & unprofessional behaviour, was asked not speak of these transgressions and was told to fully support these same people.
I began to believe that I could not trust the organization and as insidiousness of the situation grew, so did the feeling that this was the hill on which I would die.
In full disclosure, my temper demonstrated itself more than once and my conduct was not always as professional as I hoped. But I did what was required of me and transitioned my people to their new supervisors.
As much as I loved my team and the organization, my personal situation was untenable and I was failing the organization’s mission. I chose to manage my demise by negotiating an exit and finishing up my work with as much style and class as I could muster.
What did I learn from this?
- Know your ‘best before date’ – Like all relationships there is a time to call it a day. To be honest my best before date had passed and I should have left months earlier.
- Past behaviour is 100% predictive of future conduct – A system that allowed and supported unethical conduct will allow and support unethical conduct
- You are not that important – An old boss once told me that to put your arm into a bucket of water and pull it out and then he asked how long did the hole last? I knew that I wasn’t integral to anything and my replacement would come along and do a good job.
- Care about your people, but look after yourself – You, your dignity, health and family are paramount. Hire a good labour lawyer, talk to your spouse and get good counsel because organizations are big, large and can purposely or inadvertently crush one person.