Never separate the life you live from the words you speak. ~Paul Wellstone

The news reveals another fallen hero. Infidelity, dishonesty, lies, fraudulent behaviour… the list goes on and on. A lifetime of effort and achievement eroded overnight by a lapse in judgment. It happens every day. We’ve all felt the disappointment when a business or political leader fails in the realm of integrity. When a high profile athlete gets arrested or a church leader fails to meet the standards that they preach.

In your many efforts to be successful, seek to grow in competence AND character. Your talent and skills may take you to the top, but only your character will keep you there.

Consider the following story.

An aging CEO knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one his children or one of the company’s senior directors, he decided to do something different. He called all the junior executives in his company together and said, “It’s time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” 

The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I’m going to give each one of you a seed today. One very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I’ve given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”

One man, named Jim, was there that day. He received a seed, went home, and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.

After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by – still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by and still nothing in Jim’s pot. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil. He so wanted the seed to grow.

Successful people build with integrity!

Successful people build with integrity!

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach. It was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He would take his empty pot to the board room.

When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful – in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed. A few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim tried to hide in the back of the room. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!” 

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!” When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Embarrassed, Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!” 

Jim couldn’t believe it. “How can he be the new CEO?” the others asked.

Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it and bring it back to me today. What all of you don’t realize is that I gave you all boiled seeds. They were dead. It was impossible for them to grow anything.

All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new CEO!” 

Business integrity

This business parable communicates a simple truth: on your journey to success, don’t be tempted to take moral shortcuts. No achievement is worth compromising your values. Don’t spend your whole life climbing the success ladder only to discover it has been leaning on the wrong wall the whole time.

Seek to grow in character and integrity. Build a foundation that can support a lifetime of success and achievement. Remember: real wealth is what you have left after all the money is gone. Live every day in such a way that you will never be ashamed to look in the mirror.

Eric Deschamps | Ottawa Business Coach

Eric DeschampsBusiness Coach Ottawa

Co-Leader of Rhapsody Strategies

“Helping others succeed has always been my passion. There is no greater feeling in the world than coming alongside someone and empowering them to achieve their goals and dreams.” I work with individuals with a single and simple purpose: to help them define and attain their goals, one step at a time. Through the coaching relationship, I help business owners and professionals achieve more by delivering world-class growth strategies, tools and advice individually tailored to each owner and his/her business.