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Just Be Decent


The other day I was thinking about business, and what I thought my/our secret sauce is. That is, we seem to get a lot of the business we go after, and we seem to have lots of happy customers, but why is that?

Asking these sorts of questions, to me anyway, isn’t an exercise in self-back-slappery. Instead, it is a way of, at least trying to, look at yourself, as well as your effect on others, as honestly as possible. Now, of course, it is impossible to completely put your own views, biases, and opinions aside (especially on a topic like yourself), but that does not mean that there is not value in trying to do so.

One of the things that occurred to me why we tend to do pretty well is our unshakable desire and focus on just being decent. Now, this might not sound like a lot, or might not be a very grandiose thing to espouse, but it is the truth. And, the fact that I see plenty of companies being non-decent (with many going out of their way to be difficult to work with), this can be somewhat of a rare trait.

Now, what do I mean by decent? To me, it is pretty simple:

1. Treat people like actual human beings. Appreciate their complexities and value their contribution.

2. Don’t squander opportunities to work a little harder, or do a little better than you have to. Other people’s expectations of your best seldom give you enough credit. Plus, these little moments are usually where the magic in a project lie.

3. Do what you say, always, every time.

4. Don’t be afraid of saying “I don’t know”. So many people think it is weak to admit they don’t know something, especially, *gasp* if it is something they SHOULD know. Hogwash. Hogwash and poppycock.

5. Lead with character. Your character is who you really are. Don’t know what you should do a in a situation? Start by removing the biasing variables, especially money. Money does not change who you are, for better or for worse. You are who you are, so you have to ask yourself, with all limitations and biasing factors removed, what would YOU do?

To me, it is hard to make decisions in a vacuum of the human elements of a situation. When doing any sort of project work, it can be easy to forget these are real people. The client is a real person (or a group of real people), the users of the thing you build are certainly real people, and, assuming cyborg blog-reading robots are still a few years off, you are a real person. At the end of the day, almost all business interactions boil down to people dealing with people, and when we jettison the human parts of the experience, we create something that is either alien, abstruse, or both. The best decisions I have ever made have always been made in the light of considering the effect of this decision on other people.

I guess, in a nutshell, being decent comes down to adding value. I like to feel like my (or my company’s) involvement in something made it better than it would have been, that there was value created from us existing, from doing our work. I am greedy for creating value, in that I seek it out every chance I get. I love creating value because it is often the best way to create delight. I love win/win situations, in that this is usually where value is at its greatest. And that is what I call, just being decent. Leave a project better than when you found it, treat people as people, look for any way you can build value, consider the people around you (especially the one’s who are going to be stuck using your thing), be implacably honest, and do what you say, every single time.

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