…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference…Robert Frost (1874–1963)
Why is it that the most prosperous road is the less traveled?
Why is it that we so often choose the easy road?
Why is it we miss opportunities to make a difference?
Why is it?
I encountered some people recently who must have thought about these questions. They were faced with decisions. Decisions that were both simple and difficult. Decisions that were both minor and major in their impact upon others. Decisions they had faced before.
Kristen works as a manager of a retail store. Kristen really wants to be liked by her employees. It seems Kristen has “respected” and “liked” confused, thinking they are the same. As Leaders, we know that many times our tough decisions mean our Team members may not like us, but if we make good decisions, and if we are consistent in our actions, then perhaps we have moved towards becoming respected.
Wanting to be liked is a dangerous temptation that leads to the road most often traveled.
In this instance, Kristen overheard some of her employees talking of an after work party. It sounded like it would be fun. Kristen hoped she would be invited. As she listened in closer, she heard the dark side of their plans. The party was to be held in the large storage room of the store. Guests would be escorted in the back door, and no one would know. And as hosts, the storage contents would certainly serve the guests well. After all, who wouldn’t want an open bar with unlimited snacks.
Kristen knew she wouldn’t be invited. But now she was faced with a dilemma. Does she ruin the party plans by telling the owner? This would certainly lead to discipline and termination of some of her Team. And that would only add to Kristen’s heavy work load. Or, another idea might be to approach her Team. Why not tell them she overheard their plans? Why not tell them this was not to be allowed? Of course, if Kristen took this action, her Team would never like her. They would see her as an outsider.
Why should she even get involved? If they got caught, Kristen would be far away, at home with her family and away from the trouble.
Kristen was faced with a question. One road would prevent the party. It would prevent trouble. It would lessen her chance of being “liked”. The other road was a simple denial of any knowledge of the party. Kristen would have nothing to lose, and her chances of being “liked” by her Team would be intact.
Which is the road less taken? Which road will make all the difference?
Tim was a client of mine for many years. Tim, like Kristen enjoyed being “liked” by his employees, but he also commanded respect. Tim had earned his promotions through the company to his current role as a business unit leader. Tim knew how to mix both business and social relationships and situations. He made his appearances at company parties, bought a round or two, and quietly exited, leaving his employees to their good times away from the boss. At work, Tim was fair and consistent when assigning work and made certain everyone received their praise when their results were achieved. Everyone liked Tim. He had good Charisma.
Tim’s boss approached him on Monday morning. Julia said…“Tim, I need you to help me on a new acquisition. This will be an enormous undertaking, but the rewards will be tremendous. If it succeeds, I have been told I will be named as President of the company as George retires. When I am President, you will become my COO”.
This all seemed too good to be true. Tim was finally being recognized for his years of loyalty. His dedication and hard work paid off. Julia added, “Tim, this will not come without cost. As part of the acquisition, we will be offering your business unit as part of the deal. A trade so to speak. In the long run, we can not allow your current business unit to succeed under the new owner. We will be launching a competitor of our own after the acquisition is realized. I need you to make some plans prior to your transition out of this group. I have some ideas, but please see me tomorrow with your ideas of some “poison pills” we can place in this group which will destroy its ability to compete with us in two years.”
I asked what would happen to the rest of my Team. These were good people who had worked hard to make me successful. “Don’t worry Tim. When we make the deal, they’ll be happy, because they will have a job guarantee with the new owner”. But I asked, isn’t that guarantee worthless since we will have set up their new company to fail? “Tim, you are focused on the wrong road. Our new road is filled with wonderful opportunities for both of us. We’ll make great financial bonus awards from the success of the acquisition, and then you and I will be running the entire company. Remember, this was our dream when we both joined as trainees so many years ago.”
Two roads. Both filled with opportunities. One road will be less traveled. One Road will make the difference.
The Rare Leader™ lives through a combination of morality, values and ethics to create a strength of Character consistent of being true to values, and doing the right thing because it is the right thing. This inner strength enables Teams and organizations to trust their leader, whose Character embodies this knowledge, comfort, and trust of their own personal Core. We call this Integrity of Character.
- If you are Kristen…Which is the road less traveled?
- If you are Tim…Which is the road less taken?
- Why do these roads make the difference?
If you want to learn more about the Rare Leader™ in you,
or if you are interested in retaining Steve as your Executive Coach,