My recent posts have had a leaning toward behavior traits that center around issues like the lack of boldness, the need for risk taking and the desire of some people to conform to popular opinion or pop culture. These are traits I've observed in individuals who hold positions of authority, leadership and, indeed, the general population. These behavior traits manifest themselves in business and personal life alike.
Although I always want to be as positive as possible in my posts, I may, on occasion, come off as negative rather than reaching my intended purpose of causing people to think and reflect about their own behavior and that of the organizations they interact with. Today's thoughts may sound harsh, but the fact is a reality of behavior about another group of people. People I call "sellouts."
Sellouts are those folks who have made a conscious determination to exchange personal conviction for personal convenience or profit. They are not necessarily crooks (although they could be) but rather those who are "gutless" in their standing morally, ethically, or even strategically for self survival, personal gain, or secure standing.
Two quick examples of what I'm talking about. Today, I passed such a person in the Chicago airport. A U.S. Congressman who is a good guy, but unwilling to shake things up in D.C. because of the consequences which may result in loss of status in Washington, or not being re-elected in his home district.
The 2nd is of an acquaintance who once claimed to be strong in his faith, but most recently has declared himself as "spiritual" rather than being specific in what he once considered absolute truth. His new proclamation is difficult to understand because the desire to be all things to all people leaves him weak and without creditability on morale and ethical issues. In both cases, they have become "sellouts."
Before anyone thinks I'm just casting stones, please understand that the thought of being a "sellout" is first considered and investigated by me, about me.
For good or bad, I became a consultant precisely because of two events that intersected in my professional life.
1. Because of many wonderful things that were happening in education and cultural change in the company I was working for, I was asked by other firms to help them in the same process of change management. However, I probably would have never left this fine firm to start my own business, had it not been for the 2nd event.
2. During my time with this company I was fortunate to work with a wonderful CEO and President/COO. The support, values and vision were perfectly in line with the President of the company. However, this President left our company to work for another firm. The new President was a finance guy and saw education and development as an expense that could be eliminated and would therefore bolster the bottom line. There are still many executives like this today, but I digress.
The new President was a nice guy, but was determined to dismantle some of the things we had begun to do while wrapping himself in a protection blanket and justification of budget concerns. He was a very short sighted guy and not a long term process thinker, and certainly not a visionary. The arrival of my travel expenses to his desk, was like fingernails on a chalk board. He just could not bear it! He wrote me a memo and insisted that I immediately stop any activity that would cost money.
At this point, I had two options.
Submit to the mandate and stay with the company and draw a pay check, along with the stock options that my position afforded, or leave the organization and try and find something that was in line with my passion, talent and belief.
Although staying would have positioned me much better financially, I chose the latter. I was unwilling to "sell out" and sell my soul for a paycheck.
It was a tough decision. I'm pretty sure I would have a lot more money in my bank account today had I stayed with this great company, and probably could have found something within the firm to do, but at the time it seemed I had only one option and that was to leave.
As it turned out, God has opened doors in the past 25 years for me that I would have never even seen, let alone walk through, if I had sold out for temporary survival. The funny thing is the new President commented to a friend of mine, after I had left the organization, that "Lewis was really a smart guy. But I just couldn't rein him in."
Many companies are betting that most of their employees will "sell out" and conform because they need a job.
I could give a long list of examples of how people sell out professionally and personally. You could too and I challenge you to come up with your own list.
However, I want you to know that "selling out" is something I consider, in my own life, almost daily.
> Fudge my expense account I send to my clients?
> Will I lie on my taxes?
> Will I take unfair advantage for perks that on the surface seem harmless, but are really dishonest?
> Will I be faithful to my God and live according to the principles I told Him I would? Not because I'm trying to earn His favor, but because of my love for Him?
> Will I be willing to do what is right for my clients, even though there is nothing it it for me, or even if I should lose money in the process?
> Will I continue to tell it like it is and give my opinion, to my kids, grandkids, friends and clients, knowing it may be unpopular?
> Will I stand on principle instead of personal gain?
Much of this self reflection will not happen for a lot of people. Why? Because they have never seriously thought about what they stand for and what they are willing to sacrifice for. That is why so many people "sleep walk" through life.
A life lived, but not a life of purpose. It's a sad commentary the number of people who "sell out" for survival and monetary gain. People who are willing to sell their soul for job security, endure insults and disrespect, and compromise for popularity.