Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.Mark Twain
I recently had the opportunity to re-meet an acquaintance who I hadn’t seen or spoken with in many years. We exchanged some pleasantries though I was left with the impression that he didn’t remember ever meeting me. The subject turned to the building we purchased and renovated to house our company. “Too bad it isn’t six miles north,” he said. “Though, I’m sure the deal you got justified the unfortunate location.”
Shortly after that encounter, I found myself standing in front of a room full of residents who are part of the community in which our building exists. I had been asked to present a check and provide an update on our company’s transition into our new location. The check was our donation to help with a waterway cleanup project that the community was pursuing in conjunction with the City of Indianapolis.
The neighborhood in which we are located is in the heart of Indianapolis and has had its challenges over the years as major employers have left or closed their facilities. The community has rallied with recent efforts to cleanup the area, reduce crime, and bring new employers and services into the area.
As I was speaking to our neighbors, I realized that they knew very little about me, our company, or why we were there. “There are those who feel that moving a business like ours into a 67 year old former Catholic church and school is a bit crazy. In fact, I recently spoke with a gentleman who told me it was unfortunate that we had to come clear down here to work…a location six miles north would have been so much better.”
I went on, “He doesn’t get it. One of the key tenets of our organization is to leave things better than we found them. We see our building and this community as an opportunity to live our values. We also believe that we are called to be good stewards. We may not always be able to do as much as we’d like, but we will always do as much as we can.”
what moves us?
In another recent conversation, I spoke with a local business professor who had enjoyed a long corporate career and has spent the last 20 years sharing his experience in the classroom. He shared his thoughts on the changing dynamics of today’s corporate environment and the importance of culture as it relates to leadership and strategy. “My students today want to be part of an organization that is about more than quarterly earnings. The quality of the working environment and the mission beyond profit margins is very important to them.” I get it.
The great “deal” we got with our 67 year old building included investing a large sum of money to make our building habitable for our organization, meeting numerous City and Neighborhood requirements, and working around the physical limitations of a building and location not originally designed for what we do. It would have been far easier, more economical, and more convenient, to move into a new, configurable building shell.
But that wasn’t the point. If our business isn’t a force for good beyond the good work it does for its clients, then we are missing an incredible opportunity. I told that room of neighbors that I have enjoyed getting to know our community, its people, and its institutions. It may have been easier to go a different direction but that would not have been the right thing for us to do.
Being called to more isn’t always about taking the easier or more profitable path. It’s about taking the right path. How do you know the right path? The best approach I’ve found is also one of our values: follow the signs. When we take a breath and clear away the noise and distractions, we are often left with clear indicators of the direction in which we should be moving.
This week, look for your “right” things. They are often hidden behind the easy ones. You’ll know them when you see them; they are the ones that stir your heart and raise your pulse. Yeah, some of that higher pulse may be fear. That’s ok, you were made for this.