A visit with my husband to one of our favorite yogurt shops compelled me to reflect and write on the topic of Integrity. This shop is a favorite of ours for many reasons. It has great service, is very clean, offers several choices, and provides an uplifting atmosphere. During our visit, we noticed something different from the moment we walked in. The floor was very dirty, the toppings were low and mixed together, and the cashier (who usually greets people as they come in and makes sure the counters are clean and the spoons are all upright and in the same position) was busy talking to his friend and was not the least bit interested in the customers or how the shop looked. A few moments later, I realized that two of the yogurt machines were frozen. I “interrupted” the cashier to ask for help with the frozen machines. Long story short, we finally got our yogurt, paid, and sat down to enjoy it. The challenge was that I could not enjoy mine. With the dirty atmosphere and my frustration rising, I continued to watch the cashier be uninterested in his work. Then, the straw that broke the camel’s back happened. It was about 10 minutes from closing time and I saw the friend of the cashier go over and help himself to a large serving of yogurt and toppings without paying. I could not be in integrity and remain quiet any longer.
The truth was, when I directly addressed the cashier, he had a lot of charisma, charm and potential. Another truth was that he was not using these characteristics for the benefit of his current employer and his own future. I walked up to the counter and asked the cashier how long he had been working there, where he went to school and what his future plans were. As the conversation unfolded, I learned that he was in his second year of college and played football. He had hopes of going into real estate and own his own business some day. Yes! This was my open door. I asked him how he would like to have his own employees in his business someday. As you can imagine, he wants his future employees to take ownership and work with the same passion that he would in his own business. This conversation gave me the opportunity to talk to him about the law of “sowing and reaping.” I told him that the seeds he is sowing as an employee will come back to him over and over with his own employees someday. We also discussed the quote, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it still make a sound?” Of course it does. Integrity is integrity at all times. We were able to close our conversation with me sharing with him that someone is always watching us, and the work ethic that he displays is an opportunity to have a positive or negative impact on an employer or mentor. Unfortunately, the behavior that he was displaying has a negative impact on his present employer and the employer’s business. I assured the cashier that we were not going to “tell” the owner on him. However, I did hope our conversation was encouraging and thought provoking so he would sow better seeds for himself in the future. You may be wondering how this situation ties in to leadership. My question to you is twofold:
- Do you capture teachable moments both inside and outside of your organization to help grow and develop people?
- Do you strive to be in integrity even when it seems that no one is watching… because the truth is, someone is always watching!
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