September 5, 2007
Graciousness is first step toward integrity
Where is integrity displayed?
The overwhelming majority of people, imperfect as they might be, still live with integrity.
They rear responsible children, do their jobs with enthusiasm and serve their communities while passing on positive values to those with whom they come in contact.
Why all the fuss about a minority of egotists, hedonists, slackers and hackers who make things worse for the majority? Negative stories sell newspapers and excite loyal viewers.
In contrast, appropriate behavior strengthens society! Case in point: a powerful, second-generation CEO of a large regional bank, a "would-be" hypnotist and hundreds of semi-regular churchgoers in Terre Haute, Ind. Their purpose was to raise money for a worthy cause.
As some of you know, prior to founding Dimension Five Consultants, our executive effectiveness firm, nearly 28 years ago, my career centered in church leadership as an ordained clergyman.
So, picture it: a fund-raising dinner in the ballroom of a local hotel with hundreds eager to enjoy an "in-house" talent show. The entertainment ran the spectrum: singing, instrumental music, a magic act and the "center-ring" extravaganza: a hypnotist. Everything was going smoothly until the main act - the hypnotist - began to flop.
One after another of the volunteers was asked to leave the stage, having failed to succumb to the "spell" of the hypnotist. Failed hypnosis candidates returned to their seats, and anxiety crept in. What if our "star" didn't work out? The damage could be serious. But "graciousness" and "courage" emerged in the tall, reserved, dignified, very proper and private banker, who stood up, walked to the stage and waited his turn to be hypnotized.
His unusual "front and center" position brought a hush to the proceedings. Under the spell of our hypnotist, the banker, John N. Royse, told funny stories from his childhood, some of which made him the butt of jokes. The audience roared with laughter, and our evening was a success. And John returned to his seat, red-faced with embarrassment.
Not until last week, 32 years after his being hypnotized, while visiting the Midwest, had John and I ever discussed the evening. But one nagging question remained. Did John place the dignity of another individual and the success of a church event above his own ego? So I asked him: "John, did you 'take one' for the team that night with the hypnotist?" "Well," he said, "they thought I was hypnotized, didn't they? Shouldn't that be enough?"
Only two words seemed appropriate: Thank you. Graciously and humbly, John Royse had salvaged the dignity of another human being while supporting his church's fund-raising event, never once asking for recognition.
Integrity is exhibited in many ways, and placing others first, graciously, is often step one.