Moments of Truth

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 7.37.20 AM“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  No, I’m under no delusion about being Thomas Paine.  And I know it’s not 1776.

But from time-to-time we all face moments of truth in running our businesses.  Situations that test our resolve for living according to the lofty principles we’ve talked about.  When we handle them right, we inspire our troops to follow our lead.  And they live on well beyond the moments of our anguish, decision, action and glory.  Implanting a force more powerful than anything else we could say or do.  That sets the example for others to do the same.

Our moments of truth aren’t always big things.  But they are situations where there’s an easier way out, and we have the opportunity to choose the higher, harder right.

They’re the moments when we put our jobs, and maybe even our whole companies, on the line for what we believe is right.  They’re also the moments when we earn our pay.  For being at the pivot … “calling the shot” …. on matters big and small that telegraph to everyone else what lies at the core of our company’s value system, and what everyone can count on from our business.

Far too few of us look hard enough for these opportunities.  Partially, it’s because there’re always other things for us to do that make us feel like we’re contributing.  And partially because our natural instinct is to avoid, rather than seek, situations that test our resolve to match our actions to our high ideals.  Particularly when the higher right is a  tougher path to walk.

A record of choosing higher right paths, however, is exactly what distinguishes your business from others.  In the eyes of your employees, your customers, your suppliers and the communities you serve.  It’s what inspires admiration, and in turn, support from others when you need it most.

So, what does turning up our focus on moments of truth look like.

First you’ve got to recognize them.  The ones that show up in your email are easy.  But they’re only a fraction.  More arise in parts of your company, taken care of by others, with results you never know about.

Therefore, the ultimate objective is alignment.  Alignment of moments of truth by everyone, throughout your organization.  But you can’t be everywhere to enforce it.  Nor can you impose yourself in ways that undermine delegation and others’ responsibilities for their own jobs and areas of your company.

Your solution is more subtle.  It’s teaching, setting the example and then coaching.  Your focal point for all of this is your Core Values of your business.

Most of us have them.  Somewhere.  The result of an old offsite, or a lunch discussion.  Maybe on a plaque in the lobby.  And not usually first in thought for anybody.  But these Core Values are your Trojan horse for capitalizing on moments of truth.  Throughout your organization.

Through your own focus on Core Values, which you demonstrate continuously and explain each time as your guide through your own moments of truth …. you’ll be teaching everyone else to do the same.

Lack Core Values?  Not too hard to put in place.  And already in “in the woodwork” of most organizations.  Just neglected.  Your job is to resurrect them and make them apparent in your own, and then other people’s lives.

Gather a team for 45 minutes and ask them to finish this sentence:

“At (our company) we believe deeply in ………”

It’ll take a few sessions, but soon you’ll be zeroing in on a short set of Core Values … no more than five …. that stir emotions.  The statement of each one ought to be no more than a short phrase.  That everyone can remember.

Then use the list as your screen for every decision.  And tell people what you are doing.

Soon they’ll all be doing the same.  And alignment of moments of truth will blossom throughout your organization.
Dick is the founder and Managing Principal of The Cross Partnership III, a twenty-year-old, Boston-based, “hands-on” consulting and turn-around firm focused on improving the operating and financial performance of businesses owned by financial sponsors. Over the past decade, Dick has served as an interim President/CEO, leading successful business transitions in eight companies over the past twelve years.

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