Leadership: A short primer on doing the right thing in business

I study and write about IT failures, which necessarily means discussing the greedy and nasty side of business. While that negativity isn’t fun, to say the least, supporting folks who want to do the right thing (whatever that means to each individual) makes it worthwhile.

Leadership: A short primer on doing the right thing in businessPhoto credit: “The inspiring rainbow of leadership,” by Michael Krigsman

For those who really want to do the right thing, I must strongly recommend an article from Guy Kawasaki titled, How to Be a Mensch in Business, in which he interviews leadership consultantBruna Martinuzzi. The entire discussion is positive and straightforward.

Since the subject is being a mensch, the article explains what that term actually means:

A mensch is an individual who is decent and honorable in all of his undertakings—he or she is the same person privately and publicly. This is a person of high integrity, someone that you would feel totally comfortable doing business with. A mensch’s word is as good as his signature. One of the hallmarks of a mensch is empathy and compassion, a genuine caring for his fellow man. A mensch will always look for an opportunity to do good in life, to be of help to the community. When you are in the presence of a mensch, you feel good about you—you sense a total absence of artifice, you know that you are in the presence of a genuine human being, one who will not deceive you, undermine you or try to diminish you in any way.

Importantly, the interview includes a description of eleven actions that anyone can take to become a mensch in business (or in life):

  1. Consistently act with honesty. Watch the small integrity slips.
  2. When someone has wronged you, continue to treat them with civility.
  3. Are you in the habit of making hasty promises that you know, from experience, you are unable to keep? Think back on what promises you made, to whom, and see if you can fulfill some of these.
  4. Help someone who can be of absolutely no use to you.
  5. The next time something goes wrong on a project, suspend blame and ask: “What can we learn?”
  6. Hire people who are as smart or smarter than you are—whose talents surpass you—and give them opportunities for growth. Not only is it the smart thing to do but it is also a sign of high personal humility.
  7. Improve the way you communicate with people: don’t interrupt people; don’t dismiss their concerns offhand; don’t rush to give advice; don’t change the subject. Allow people their moment.
  8. Resolve to do no harm in anything you undertake. If you are certain that you don’t have the competence to take on something that is offered, consider that you might be doing harm to someone by accepting it anyway.
  9. Become aware of your stance at business meetings. Are you known as the devil’s advocate—the one who is quick to shoot down others’ ideas? Jumping in too quickly to negate an idea can derail the creative process for others. Often, valuable ideas are the result of the initial “crazy” thought.
  10. Resolve to become a philanthropist of know-how. What knowledge, expertise or best practices can you share with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders as a way to enrich them?
  11. At the end of each day, when you clear your desk before you head home, take a few minutes to mentally go over your day. Think about significant conversations you had, meetings you attended, emails you sent, and other actions you undertook. Are you proud? Could you have done better? Getting into this habit of introspection will pay dividends in the long run.

Does this seem like an odd post to include in a blog dedicated to IT failures? I think it fits because most folks want to embody these qualities even though it is sometimes difficult. Wise and inspired leaders know the importance of taking time to give these issues considered attention. I hope you do just that.

Thanks to Naomi Bloom for referring me to the article described in this blog post. Naomi is one of the top HR technology analyst / consultants in the world and is someone who unquestionably reflects the qualities of a mensch.

(Cross-posted @ ZDNet | IT Project Failures Blog RSS)

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Well-known expert on why IT projects fail, CEO of Asuret, a Brookline, MA consultancy that uses specialized tools to measure and detect potential vulnerabilities in projects, programs, and initiatives. Also a popular and prolific blogger, writing the IT Project Failures blog for ZDNet.