Keep your promise!

January 31, 2015

Abraham Lincoln once travelled with a Colonel. After covering some distance, the Colonel took out a bottle of whiskey and asked him if he would like to have a drink. Lincoln politely refused telling him that he never drinks whisky. The colonel did not insist further. After a while, the colonel made another offer, “would you like to smoke with me? Lincoln then shared an incident of his childhood with the Colonel.

‘I was about nine years old then. My mother was very sick. She called me and said, “Abey, the doctor tells me I am not going to get well. I want you to promise me before I go that you will never use whiskey or tobacco as long as you live.” I promised my mother I never would. And, I have kept that promise. Now would you advise me to break that promise to my dear mother, and take a smoke with you?’

The Colonel was touched; felt it was the best promise to be kept.

Drug and alcohol addiction mostly start with an experimental use in a social situation. Then for some people, the use becomes more frequent and becomes an addiction. And, we all know what happens as a result.

It pains most when you see a promising career coming to an end due to an addiction. A young man once shared in one of our AIDS conferences, ‘I studied in a very good school. I didn’t realize that the first shot of an injection offered by a friend would change my life for ever. I could not live without it and became a drug addict. I had to often steal money at home to buy what was offered free in the beginning.  My grades dropped and I had to leave the school. And, now I am living with HIV.’

I asked this person after the conference which is your bigger problem: HIV or drugs. He said, ‘Drugs, because with treatment for HIV, I am doing fine but despite several rehabilitation courses, I find it difficult to fully come out of my drug-using behaviour.’

I wish this man, too, had politely refused his first shot like Lincoln did. The lesson from Lincoln’s sorry is for all to remember: If you say no politely, based on a conviction or a promise you have made to someone, your friends will not mind. In fact they will respect you.


Identify and Promote Ethics

July 16, 2013

We are living in a world where “ideas” and “initiatives” are valued. What new ideas we have, how well we present them, and what initiatives we take to make them work define our ultimate success.

The organizations which promote an open exchange of ideas, irrespective of the hierarchy, are more successful.

True, some ideas don’t work. Some actually backfire.  It is always a challenge for managers on how to act upon different ideas, proposals and suggestions. However, a greater challenge is to be able to identify ideas that are ethical and give them their due recognition. An ethical idea as the one that is within the context of the larger goal of the organization, proposes what is the right thing to do, does not show favouritism, and attempts to make the best use of time and resources.

Managers need to ensure that ethical ideas are picked up and acted upon. And   people who give such ideas or work on them are given recognition. Some employees are too shy to speak publicly or are not so talkative by nature. They must be given the opportunity to share their views. This will promote ethical work environment.

In my experience, employees who talk more in meetings are generally less effective and productive.  There are people who give suggestions in their own vested interest and present half-baked information. There are some who steal someone else’s idea and present it as their own. Nothing can be more demotivating for a worker, if his/her genuine effort is not recognized or someone else gets the credit.

In one of my previous posts (January 2009), If you have character, you have the better part of wealth, I had shared the story written by John Griggs – The night we won the Buick. John’s Grigg’s story provided a life-long lesson on integrity. It is the story of a person who could have kept a new car but decided to return it to its rightful owner.  How many times do we see such a display of integrity in life or work places?

Managers certainly are responsible for setting up systems that promote integrity but it does not undermine the responsibility of workers in any way. One test of integrity at work is to raise important issues, even when they are not likely to be accepted or even disliked. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”