Who do you think are winning, the "good guys" or the "bad guys"? A recent letter from a top healthcare system executive related a story that should give us all pause. He talked about a group a consultant friend asked him to address. His friend had been conducting a series of learning forums to expose young "up and comers" from different companies to various work styles and cultures. On this particular day, the healthcare exec talked about ethics and the values system of his organization. But he noticed that several of the 18 students didn't seem to agree with what he was saying. So he decided to ask the question: "Who thinks the good guys are winning?" Six of the students raised their hands. Then he asked: "Who thinks the bad guys are winning?" Six others raised their hands. The remaining six were "undecided."
The author of the letter went on to lament: "I think about that day frequently, and there have been times, particularly after an experience with a company whose employees think the only way to win is to be a bad guy, when I begin to wonder if the scales are tipping in favor of the bad guys. I wonder what ever happened to those six `undecided' individuals. Are they starting to fall into the good guy column or the bad guy column?"
His statements really hit me. Here's a healthcare executive who's been around for some time. He's a first-rate individual, and I've heard him speak once or twice at conferences. He's always struck me as an upbeat guy, but from his letter I sensed some despair.
Then the other day I was chatting with a well-known author about the state of affairs in our nation. He said something that shocked me. He asked, "Are you as concerned as I am about the future of our nation? I'm very pessimistic." If I were to name the author, I think most people would be astounded. All his books are upbeat, and a lot of people I know get solace and inspiration from his works. Until that phone conversation, I thought of him as one of the most optimistic individuals I've ever known. He has been a source of inspiration for me, too. So I must admit that hearing him express doubts about the future was a little disconcerting.
My answer to the author was, no, I remain very optimistic about the future. I think this nation of ours will continue to flourish. Sure there are things going on in our culture that disturb me. No one can ignore the growth of violent gangs, drug use, increasingly explicit television and literature, racism and everything else that cries out for fixing. But because of the diversity and openness of our society, these things are being examined and addressed. Together I think we can find some answers. Look at how far we've come in helping the homeless and how we've responded to the AIDS epidemic. Look at how we reach out and help each other in times of crisis, at home and abroad. We are still the most giving nation and the one beacon of hope for the oppressed of the world. America is still the place to be.
As far as "bad guys" are concerned, eventually they lose big. That doesn't mean they can't win in the short term, but in the long run their transgressions catch up with them. It invariably happens. The score does even up. Honor, duty and ethics are still the basis on which we judge others, and that will never change. Don't ever compromise your standards of conduct. Your character and integrity are basically all you have.
I'm optimistic because I believe in this country and in the goodness of the American people. But it's also important that I personally stay on the field of play and try to make a difference. We all should try to make a difference for the sake of our children, grandchildren and each other. That's the American way.
Help each other,
Charles S. Lauer