The Garden

The CEO of the successful company Z is pacing back and forth in the large conference room. It’s abundantly clear that something is bothering him. Sitting in one of the chairs is a confident-looking young woman, appearing calm and collected. The follicly challenged CEO stops in front of her and asks angrily:

I have offered you everything – more money, longer vacations, a better title, and even being part of my executive management team. And I know that our work here is something you are passionate about. But still you refuse to leave your current job with company X. What the hell is wrong with you?

After a few seconds, the woman looks up at the CEO and says:

Take a seat, and I’ll tell you why. Being a bully isn’t going to change anything.

The CEO looks even more annoyed but finally sits down in a chair on the opposite side of the table. He leans forward.

Listen, I’ve been playing the corporate game a very long time”, he says. “And I’m used to getting things done my way, sooner or later. So let’s hear what the problem is, and I’ll tell you how we’ll solve it.

The woman also leans forward in her chair, mirroring the CEO’s position, and looks straight at him.

You are missing the point”, she says. “I am not here to negotiate, or to compare salaries, titles, or which job is better than the other. That’s not what this is about at all. I’m here to teach you a business lesson.

The CEO looks at her with an incredulous look on his face.

You are here to teach me about my business? Ha! Please go ahead and enlighten me, then.

The woman picks up a pen and a piece of paper. She quickly draws a picture, turns the paper face down on the table, and pushes it across the table towards the CEO.

Before you look at the paper”, she says, “I’d like to ask you a question, if that’s ok?

Go ahead”, he says.

When you started this business a long time ago, I am sure you were madly in love with the idea of realizing a lifelong passion. But over the years, there must have been hard times when you just wanted to quit and pursue some other dream. On such tough days, when passion alone was not enough, what was it that kept you going?

The CEO sits quietly for a few moments. Then he leans back in his chair and replies:

It’s not easy to become successful, in any business. As long as things go well, everything’s straightforward. But when the going gets tough, you need to protect your decisions and ambitions. I have built my company’s success not only on the desire to win, but on loyalty towards my own choices, respect for colleagues and competitors, and by maintaining the personal integrity needed to avoid the temptation of taking shortcuts.

That’s a great answer”, she says. “Now you may look at the paper.

He turns over the paper and looks at the drawing. It’s a simple sketch of a small garden with flowers and trees. The garden is completely surrounded by a stone wall, and on the inside of the wall someone has written three words: Loyalty. Respect. Integrity.

Well now, that’s certainly a neat trick and a nice drawing”, says the CEO. “But I fail to see how this teaches me anything about business.

Standing up and preparing to leave, the woman smiles at the CEO.

My lesson is simple: Do not hire people who are dazzled by your promises of more money, a nice company car, or a great title. History usually predicts the future; one day the same people will leave for promises that seem to shine brighter than yours”.

She starts walking towards the door.

Wait!” says the CEO. “I hear what you’re saying, and agree. But how can I change your mind about working here?

Stopping in the doorway, our heroine looks back at him one last time.

You can’t change anyone’s mind”, she says. “But if you consistently respect people’s integrity and choices, you might win their loyalties — and then they change their minds. And who knows, that could one day include me…

She walks away, and although he cannot see her face, he is certain that she’s smiling.

 

Posted in Corporate Citizen

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