A frequent thought has been rattling around in my brain for the past week: why is it so hard to just do the right thing? The question has surfaced from several stories I heard from clients and colleagues. Helen, a technology solutions manager, has noticed several glitches in their systems that she believes may be caused the system exceeding capacity. She has raised this issue several times to key decision makers, and she hasn’t been able to get them to do the work to assess the risk. “I don’t know what more I can do,” she laments. “If this system fails, it will have an incredibly serious impact on our business success. But no one seems to want to even talk about this, let alone take action.”
Marie, heading the marketing group of a large nonprofit, shared a similar story. “We are trying to integrate our efforts across the organization and create a unique and powerful brand that will raise our profile in the community. Yet my colleagues, while giving lip service to this idea, still want to do things the way they’ve always been done. It’s the best thing to do for the organization. Why can’t they see that?”
And it isn’t just my clients who are stressing over this issue. It’s me, too! In my doctor’s office today, we got into an animated discussion about health care reform. We agreed that health care in the United States needs to be fixed. I was optimistic that there is a solution and someone needs to step out and do it. Dr. Anne was less hopeful. “There are two extremes – insurance companies with their dictates, and government-controlled mandates. Neither lets doctors and health care providers do what is in the best interests of the patients because rules have to be followed, and the people farthest away from the patient seem to be making the rules. We don’t seem to be able to find the sensible middle ground.”
I am frightened because I believe she may be right. As a society, when did we stop trusting – or expecting – each other to do the right thing? In a recent radio program, panelists were discussing presidential campaign strategies and how they get voters’ attention. One panelist said, “The voters just don’t understand the complexities of issues, so candidates just go for the sound bite that voters can remember.” Perhaps, just perhaps, candidates might want to start expecting more from the electorate rather than less.
And maybe we need to do that from our colleagues, friends, neighbors and family. When doing the right thing is the expected instead of the exception, who knows what might be possible?
What will it take for you to just do the right thing?