“The world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks which we endure help us in our marching onward.”— Henry Ford
America’s first talk-show host, Arthur Godfrey, loved to tell the story of visiting the village smitty as a youngster in his rural hometown. He watched the smitty pick up pieces of iron, only to examine quickly and toss them in a junk pile. Then he’d pick up another piece, put it into the fire and begin shaping it into a horseshoe. Young Godfrey asked the smitty, “Why do some pieces go on the pile while others are heated up in the fire?” The smitty replied, “Some iron can’t take the heat of the fire.”
An imposing question for business professionals throughout America can be found in the character lesson that Godfrey exposes in his folksy remembrance. Can we take the heat of a dynamically challenging business environment for shaping a useful purpose? Can trouble produce renewed triumph? The answer may be found in experiencing difficulty for a yet-to-be-discovered good.
At a recent meeting of business executives, the moderator asked the attendees to stand up and comment on three open-ended questions: "What do you believe? What do you want? How do you intend to achieve what you want?" What came forth was pure gold. The answers showed unusual authenticity of thought embedded in the mutual belief held by all that economic tough times are not a deathbed; they are a place for digging deeper into the journey of relationship building as the master key to personal and professional success.
What is the digging-deeper story of relationship building now in play as both a source of conflict and growth? A paradigm shift is occurring in business relationship building. The movement is from a transactional paradigm to a trust paradigm. The fulcrum that balances and connects the old and new paradigms is found in the exploration of values.
There is a growing realization among thoughtful professionals that doing good business is more than money. Making money fires all commerce; making meaning shapes good commerce. Our personal and corporate values need to get heated up and tested in the fire to produce results that have purposeful outcomes. Making a buck with integrity is about finding the risk to test out the message of shared values that can produce bottom-line profitability and sustainable goodwill.
As I listened to the voices in the room, I observed we were digging in the gold vein of good business: Get engaged in the heat of the values conversation of meaning and money or anticipate that your product or service will soon land on the junk pile.
Mission Integrity Action
Are you throwing yourself on the junk pile or heating up in the fire? It’s a dialogue worth observing in your personal and professional conversations this week. When you are moving toward the junk pile, your conversations will focus on what you can get. When you are experiencing the heat, you will be genuinely focused on what can you give. Both are paradigms of your thinking.
Passkeys Foundation/Ethical Edge ethicaledge.org