Recently, I read a really good blog post on HBR entitled Do Women Take as Many Risks as Men? There was one particular sentence in it that struck a particular chord with me:
“Do women take as many risks as men?” I think they do. The trouble is that historically risk-taking has been framed so narrowly that it skews our perceptions. For example, the majority of studies that point to men having a greater inclination for risk-taking define risk in physical and financial terms. They don’t point to risks like standing up for what’s right in the face of opposition, or taking the ethical path when there’s pressure to stray — important risks that I’ve found women are particularly strong at taking.
I’d like to say that I strive to be honest and stand up for what I believe in, not just in the workplace, but in my personal relationships too. I also like to think that most people do the same. Naive? Perhaps. Either way, having read the blog, I felt inspired and a little proud of being a woman. (Not to say that men aren’t capable of standing up for what is right, because they are!)
I then got into a discussion with a colleague regarding a previous post of mine, on Giving your boss bad news & saying NO to your boss. The discussion, like all discussions, moved on from its original topic and eventually my colleague admitted that he wasn’t always happy with his behaviour in negotiations. He said, and I quote, “Sometimes, I know what is the right thing to do or say, but I just want to win, and my good intentions go out of the window. I go into the negotiation with my strategy in place, but if I feel that the discussion is not going in my favour, I feel my behaviour slipping. The win is sometimes just too important.” My response to this was, “But do you really win? What happens in the long term?” He had no answer.
The comments of my colleague, along with the HR blog post, lead me to some serious introspection. Do I always behave the way I should, or do I sometimes go for the win? This of course then lead me to “Do I really win, if I’ve crossed some moral line to do so?” Next came another blog post: IN·TEG·RI·TY. Again, I quote:
What is integrity? How do you know if you have it? If you don’t have it? Does it even matter?
When it comes to integrity in leadership (our work, which is where we spend most of our waking hours), Peter Drucker, in his book ‘Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices’ summarizes it pretty well. He says: The proof of the sincerity and seriousness of a management is uncompromising emphasis on integrity of character. For it is character through which leadership is exercised; it is character that sets the example and is imitated. Character is not something one can fool people about. The people with whom a person works … know in a few weeks whether he or she has integrity or not. They may forgive a person for a great deal: incompetence, ignorance, insecurity, or bad manners. But they will not forgive a lack of integrity in that person.
Wow. Serious words!
As a trainer, I firmly believe that life is a journey. No one is perfect; the only way to succeed is to improve – continuously. Of course, if I want things to change in the world around me, I need to start with myself, so the next time I am in a meeting, a confrontation or I’m negotiating for something I want, I am going to challenge myself: Do I want to win or do I want to be right? Perhaps you’ll join me?