Don’t Wait to Celebrate

Validation helps us fight the good fight.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “the Great Reset.” That’s my shorthand for everything that’s rocked our world and our industry in the last 100 days as we navigate a pandemic, fight a global recession, and come to grips with a new Civil Rights movement that is justifiably disrupting the status quo. I used to think that companies like Freeman, who have overcome every conceivable challenge and adversity in 90+ years, had seen it all. But we’ve hit the trifecta of sea change, compressed in an unimaginable time frame.

I suspect that this is what it means to live at the speed of digital, where there is scarcely time to process the significance of events in real time because they are coming at what feels like warp speed. It’s physically exhausting and emotionally draining for everyone. But baked into the formula of rapid change is inherent hope that rapid change can also bring positive transformation. And that’s why, even when we are scrambling to keep the plates spinning and feeling overwhelmed — especially when we’re feeling that way — we need to celebrate our victories.

Cause for applause came from a surprising quarter last week when Forbes officially included Freeman on its annual list of America’s Best Employers for Women. This unsolicited accolade from such a credible source served as validation that when we act with intent, live our values, and refuse to accept the lazy, ingrained habits that excuse discrimination, we can affect positive change. The Freeman manifesto states that all employees can expect a “career experience to promote an enriching life of learning, creativity, growth, and fulfillment.” We are committed to the relentless work of ensuring equity in the way people are hired, compensated, and afforded opportunities for promotion — regardless of age, gender identity, race, or any other point of differentiation.

We are not ready to declare absolute victory in the fight to ensure diversity and equity at Freeman. But as an organization grounded in design thinking, we know that diversity is critical to success in an industry that demands innovation. This affirmation encourages us to push harder. And on a larger scale, it is a welcome reminder that the seemingly thankless task of tilling the soil today may bear fruit sooner than we think. Until then, we would do well to stay focused on promoting growth. And let’s make time to celebrate each green shoot.

The Sound of Integrity

{A Note to Readers: This is the first in a series of blogs focused on Customer Experience that I’ll be collaborating on with the amazing Katy Wild. Working with Katy, I can always expect to learn something; I trust you will, too. ~ bph}

What does a company with integrity look and sound like? I recently ran across the following quotation by Don Galer (CFO of Snoqualmie Valley Hospital) and it hit home with a recent experience: “Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do.” A friend of mine had just told me about how his house was damaged by several hail storms that kept pounding his home this spring. After the storms finally passed, his insurance company said the roof was a total loss. Knowing there are a few unethical roofing companies during times like these, he asked for recommended contractors from his insurer.

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He contacted one that had the best reputation and set a date for them to start, which was Memorial Day. The materials were delivered that weekend and placed on his driveway, but on Monday, the workers didn’t show. The explanation was that several wanted off for the holiday. Two weeks later, no one had shown up. My friend called the contractor to hear they were finishing a few other houses but would be there “soon.” The next week, without any notice, the contractor picked up the supplies that had sat on the driveway, only leaving a message that he would contact my friend soon. Two months passed during the rainy season with no messages and no returned phone calls, and what started out as a seemingly ethical company now has a serious shadow over their reputation for integrity.

My friend contacted the insurance company, obtained another recommendation, and signed that roofer to perform the needed work. He then contacted the first company and let them know the contract had expired and he would not renew it. The vendor was appalled!  He was so shocked that he lost the contract! He believed he had several “good” reasons why he had not lived up to the original agreement—even though he had not contacted the customer to convey these reasons.

Most companies have the best intentions to do what they promise. When the unexpected happens, they assume the customer will understand even though they deliver no explanations and give no updates. But customers deserve better.

Integrity is all about making and keeping agreements. Make no mistake—integrity IS what we do, what we say, and what we say we do. Our customers expect no less.

Integrity first, in every situation

Integrity is an essential Freeman value, but I hope it’s also a personal value for each of us. I like to think we all listen to that little voice in our head that reminds us to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. You were probably taught, as I was, to tell the truth, be helpful, and earn my keep.

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People with integrity give everything their best effort. They are honest – with a truthfulness that begins with self-knowledge. They have a moral compass that’s points to True North and they follow it.

Although some people think “dishonesty” is the opposite of integrity, in my experience, it’s not always that obvious. A breach of integrity can be a failure to do anything at all. And it often slips through the door dressed up like old-fashioned, “harmless” hypocrisy.  That’s what we need to guard against. Integrity means acting according to the principles we’ve sworn allegiance to – even when it’s hard, even when it’s “no big deal,” and even when we are the only ones who will ever know.

Simple Truths I’ve Picked Up

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts where I will be sharing my thoughts on what it takes to lead others with strength and integrity. I hope you find value in these posts and I welcome you to comment and share your opinions and experiences as I share mine with you.

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Have you ever noticed that some of the most important rules of business look a lot like common sense dressed up in an Armani sport coat? And have you ever been surprised (or dismayed or disheartened) to discover that some of these common-sense rules aren’t all that common?

When you’ve been on the planet long enough, you start to realize that the lessons learned from your mom, your school friends, and your first crush actually have a bearing on the universe at large. Even a bad boss can teach you important things about yourself. I’ve absorbed many valuable lessons from flawed human beings. I believe you can continue to gain insights about yourself and others by accepting these two truths:

1) It takes one to know one. We’re all flawed human beings.
2) Everyone you meet is a possible teacher; don’t stop learning.

Often, when I share an anecdote with a friend or colleague that exemplifies one of these simple “life lessons,” they genuinely appreciate the story and apply it. It seems to happen more and more. (Does that mean I’m getting older, or that I’m hanging out with younger people?) In any event, it got me thinking about how many simple truths I’ve picked up over the years.

In honor of the people who’ve helped set me straight in the past, and in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ve committed to sharing some of those observations here.

Here’s my first piece of advice:
Stop waiting for a response that you’re never going to get.

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Sometimes we have expectations of others that they can never live up to. Sometimes we want something from people that they just aren’t equipped to give us. The result is frustration, which is an absolute energy drain. This often happens with family members — parents, siblings, or children who just don’t show us love in the precise way we want to be loved.

It can also happen with clients, bosses, and coworkers. They don’t have the sense of humor we crave. They’re too private and won’t open up. They don’t give us the pat on the back we’ve earned.

In these situations, we have two choices. We can quit — we can divorce, fire or disown these people. Or we can focus on controlling the only part of the relationship we can control. That would be our own expectations.

If your client is Oscar the Grouch, don’t expect a congratulatory fist bump when you’ve delivered an amazing result on a tough assignment. You’re never going to get it. But do the amazing work you always do anyway. Be gracious and professional. Give those hugs and fist bumps to your own team members. In other words, model the behavior you’d like to see. But leave your frustration — along with unrealistic expectations — in the garbage can with Oscar.

Agree, disagree, have a different take? Send me a comment and let’s discuss.

Let’s connect on Twitter as well @bpriestheck.