The Right Thing

Gerwig 2014-01-27

Snow and Ice. Many parts of the U.S. have experienced a harsh winter filled with abnormally cold temperatures, snow, and ice. Having moved less than a year ago from sunny Cebu (Philippines) this has been a bit of a shock. Leaving the tropics and moving to a location where the temperatures have been single digits (Fahrenheit!) (or lower) for days on end has been a rude awakening. I find that I’m digging through cold weather gear that I haven’t used in years trying to find layers of clothing to stay warm.

If truth be told, I like harsh elements. I have hiked/camped in 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero. I have also hiked and mountain biked in 120 degree temperatures. In fact, there’s something about my psyche that strikes an inner cord when harsh elements are present. Maybe it’s ego. Maybe it’s the chance to “test” myself. Maybe it’s the adventure. The mysterious. The challenge. I’m not exactly sure. I’ve been in a super typhoon, an earthquake over 7.5 on the Richter scale, seen tornados, and endured harsh weather. Many of you have endured harsh elements as well.

Whether you like it or not, you have experienced tough conditions, harsh environments and tough weather-related challenges. You have been tested by torrential downpours, cold weather, hot temperatures, icy roads, and the like. Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to take the harshness out of the elements in an attempt to make us comfortable. Think about it. Rain gear. Winter gear. Winter tires for your car. Air conditioning. Heating. Hats. Gloves. Sunglasses. Wool socks. Coats. Windshield wipers. Electric fans. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Think about how many items you have and how much money you’ve spent trying to minimize the impact of the elements. You want to be “comfortable.” You don’t want to squint when looking at the sun. You don’t want to be hot. Or cold. Or wet. You want to feel good. To be comfortable. …  Me too!

Many parts of the U.S. have experienced abnormally harsh conditions this winter. Temperatures have set all-time lows and many areas can claim the worst winter on record in decades. It’s been tough for locals and a rude awakening for someone returning from a couple years in the tropics.

Once I had a work event that was scheduled about 90 miles from where I was living. It was important for me to attend that evening. The event was to recognize an organizational milestone we had achieved. Many leaders had been invited, including several leaders who reported to me. As fate would have it, it snowed 7 inches the morning of the event. Roads were closed. People were staying inside. It was cold. There was snow. And driving was slow on the roads that were open. Many were closed. I had a decision to make. Call and give my regrets, or leave early and drive carefully. I did experience a moment of hesitation; after all, other senior leaders would be present and weren’t driving 90 miles. And my team was not the only team being recognized. We were part of a larger team. My presence wouldn’t really be missed. Would it? People would understand. Right?

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, I watched the weather. I even went out in the car to check the conditions of the roads. In the end, I decided to attend the event. It was the right thing to do. I decided to go slow, assess the road conditions, and make a mile-by-mile decision. If the roads were too bad, I’d turn around and go home. But I was going to give it my best effort.

In the end, I made it safely to the event and had a great time. The leaders on my team were glad to see me. I was glad to be there. I was proud of them and their accomplishments. …  Though they hadn’t experienced the same adverse weather I had 90 miles away, they all said it would’ve been ok if I hadn’t been able to make it. And even though they sincerely said the right things, it was important to me to show up, to be there. It was important for me that my team know how much they meant to me and that I was willing to make a sacrifice for them.

It’s always important for the leader to “show up” and do the right thing. The right thing doesn’t mean doing something dangerous (like driving on icy roads), but doing the right thing can (and often does) mean getting out of our comfort zone, getting off the sofa, out of the cozy house and into the elements. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s always right.

Do the right thing. Think about others. Give of yourself. Make a sacrifice. Serve others. Others will notice and you’ll make an impact.

What about you? Are you willing to do the right thing even when it’s not convenient? What stories do you have where you braved the elements, the crowds, the temperatures, etc. to serve others and do the right thing?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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