I have heard it said that integrity is who you are when no one is looking. The dictionary defines integrity this way: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
Sometimes it’s difficult to have integrity, or adhere to moral and ethical principles…especially when it makes us look bad in front of others. Most of us naturally want to please others and this can cost us dearly if we take that too far. With that in mind, read this great story and ask yourself what you would have done had you been in Joe’s shoes…
A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.
He said, “It is 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 am 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 have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”
One man, named Joe, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, 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.
Joe 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 Joe didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.
Six months went by — still nothing in Joe’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. However, Joe didn’t say anything to his colleagues. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil. He so wanted the seed to grow.
A year finally went by and it was time for all the young executives of the company to bring their plants to the CEO for inspection. Joe told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Joe 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 took his empty pot to the board room.
When Joe arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful – in all shapes and sizes. Joe 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. Joe just tried to hide in the back. “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 Joe at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Joe was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”
When Joe got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Joe told him the story.
The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Joe. He looked at Joe, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is ‘Joe!’”
Joe couldn’t believe it…he couldn’t even grow his seed.
“How could he be the new CEO?” the others said.
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. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead–it was not possible for them to grow.
“All of you, except Joe, 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. Joe 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 Chief Executive Officer!”