Sometimes Honesty Hurts

No Thanks, Mr. Gorbachev

Bill Pollard knows that sometimes honesty hurts.  He was a lawyer, professor, and the CEO of the Fortune 1000 company ServiceMaster. He’s written and contributed to several books, most recently publishing The Tides of Life. In the following video, he tells the story of a showdown with Soviet statesmen Mikhail Gorbachev, and how Bill risked his business for the sake of honesty. 

Bill values honesty in business. He made it a core part of how he ran ServiceMaster. However, he admits that values often fail to translate across cultural and national divides. Some, he says, can be reshaped. Bill argues that honesty transcends culture, and should be implemented wherever one does business. 

In your business, what values do you hold to?
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How have you interacted with others within your business or in other companies that may not share your values?
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In his story, Bill sat face-to-face with a man who had been one of the most powerful leaders in the world. Gorbachev was used to getting his way, and doing anything to make it happen. Bill had a choice to make—risk upsetting Mr. Gorbachev, or maintain his values. One would cost him significant business, and the other would cost him his integrity. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you faced a polarizing choice where your values could be compromised? If so, how did it turn out?
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For Bill, sticking to his values cost him the huge market in Russian healthcare. It took courage. If you hold to your values in your workplace, what could it cost you?
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The alternative to sticking to your values is compromise. But that also comes with a price. What would you lose if you compromised your values to make a business deal? How important would the deal have to be to make you consider it?
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As a leader, values shape who we are and how we conduct our business. Sometimes sticking to our values can hurt—it can cost market share or even our reputation. In the end, we have a decision to make: compromise our values and make a deal, or say “No thanks, Mr. Gorbachev.” 

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