“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” – Romans 12:17
If you have spent enough time in the corporate world as I have, it is highly likely you have observed that people tend to fall into one of four categories: (1) those with low competence and low character, (2) those with low competence but high character, (3) those with high competence and high character, or (4) those with high competence but low character.
Those in the first category, you would probably agree, are people we simply do not want to have around, and they are usually not for very long. The second category are those we would love to keep around if only we can help them improve their skills. The third category, of course, is the cream-of-the-crop group, people who we can count on to do a great job, be fair and honest, and keep their word. Then there is that fourth category, the one that presents the greatest challenge. These are the people who are competent – sometimes extraordinarily so – but of questionable ethical or moral character. It is my experience that this category is the one that most often gets corporate America in trouble by overlooking their poor character in favor of their performance or expertise.
My corporate experience was no different. Once I hired a salesperson to work alongside our bond trading operation. He was a man with a strong reputation in both competence and character. But after he was on board, we discovered some of his top accounts were already assigned to another salesperson in another office. That salesperson, too, was a high performer, but had always been of dubious character, a category four. The bigger problem was that he had strong “connections” in the executive suite of our firm making the matter a political issue in which I was caught in the middle. If I fought too hard for the man I had hired, thus against the other guy, I could lose my job, which I could not afford to do. On the other hand, yielding to the political power would be a violation of my principles, thus compromising my character, which I refused to do.
It took many sleepless nights before I was able to negotiate my way through that predicament, which I was eventually able to do to the satisfaction of both parties – and the powers-that-be. The solution all along, it seems, rested in the wisdom of the Apostle Paul who said: “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.”