Good morning, team. For Monday Message today, I’m going to read you guys a little story about integrity. It’s something I’ve used in leadership before, and I really enjoy this story. It says an awful lot, and I think you guys will grasp it. We’ll talk maybe for a minute or so afterward if I can get to the story. Okay, here we go.
A successful businessman 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’ve decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued, “I’m 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.”
A man named Jim 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. Every day he would water and watch the seed to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and their plants and how they were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, but still nothing. By now, they were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant at all. He felt like a failure.
Six months went by, and still, nothing was in his pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues; however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil because he wanted the seed to grow. A year had finally passed, and the young executives in the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.
Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot, but she asked him to be honest about what had happened. Jim 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 the empty pot to the boardroom. When Jim arrived, he was amazed by the variety of plants that had been grown by the other executives. They were beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Jim 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. Jim tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” the CEO said. “Today, one of you will be appointed the next CEO.” All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim in the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure. Maybe I’ll be fired.”
When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked, “What happened to your seed?” Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim and then announced to his young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer; his name is Jim.” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim 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 that seed home, 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 Jim 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. Jim 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.”
You see, if you plant honesty, you will reap trust. If you plant goodness, you will reap friends. If you plant humility. You will reap greatness. If you plant perseverance. You will reap contentment. If you plant consideration. You will reap perspective. If you plant hard work, you’ll reap success. If you plant forgiveness, you’ll reap reconciliation. And if you plant faith in God, you will reap a harvest.
So be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later. Whatever you give to life, life gives you back. So, team, that’s my message today. It’s on a lot of things, and it really wraps up all of our core values, but it’s on the honesty and integrity part of our core values. Even at a cost, Jim, even at a cost of recognizing that he might not only be CEO but he could end up being terminated because he couldn’t even grow a seed. Which is a little weird, but the fact of the matter is, it was his integrity and his honesty that elevated him above everyone else.
I think I might have only done it a little bit differently than the CEO did. I think I would have looked at every one of the other executives and I would have said, “Be gone! You are all terminated because you lied.” Because every single one of them, for self-gratification, they were willing to circumvent truth and honesty to try to get one over on their boss. And that is a scary proposition because our integrity is the only thing that we have with us. We are born with it, and we can never have it taken from us. But you can always give it away.
So on this Monday, guys, I know that’s pretty deep. And if you guys would like a copy of it, maybe I’ll give this to Sonja, and she can email it to all of you and put it on the dashboard so that you guys can see it and read it and maybe even reflect back on it. Because it is an amazing story and analogy and allegory, I guess you could say, about what integrity really is when everything else is on the line. And trust me, in your lives, guys, there will be plenty of things on the line. If you will give your integrity away, sell it for something meager, even a job, if you’ll sell it even for a job or a paycheck, the end result is you’ve given away something that you can never get back.
All right, God bless you. Have a wonderful week. Talk to you next week.