The economics of decency

Be accountable is the hallmark of a strong leader

Yes, it pays to be nice!

I recently returned from a 10-day silent meditative retreat. Now, “silent” is a bit of a misnomer, to be sure. 

Just because I am not talking for that period in no way means I am fully silent. 

It simply means I am more present than usual to the ongoing internal dialogue… the voiceover we commonly mistake for thinking. 

I rediscovered how much of my chatter is an endless stream of consciousness, one that is mostly meaningless. 

Much of it driven by imaginary situations, often inspired by recent movies or television, picturing myself in those dramatic situations and exhibiting uncommon acts of “derring-do.”

Meditative sits are a practice of endeavoring to quiet the voiceover, what the Toltec Wisemen called the Narrator, seeking quiet moments.

I’ve always liked the term “Narrator” since I think it accurately describes what’s going on all the time

The Narrator is telling us what we should have done, what we are doing wrong, it’s judging others that we come in contact with, it’s making up fillers for what we don’t know, all the time.

I had 10 full days of silent meditation, an ideal environment for quieting the noisy internal narrative I have long had running in my mind. The best I did was to muffle the narration for short periods of time. 

And therein lies the rub!  How do we escape the steady and familiar voiceover that directs so much of our actions?

The point of this blog is to plant a seed for what I am calling “the economics of decency.”  How to make the business and the people in it successful.

The challenge is that: to create that kind of culture takes overriding the influence of the Narrator.

So much of our belief structure is domesticated into us from infancy and those beliefs are the content of the Narrator’s commentary and shape so much of our behavior.

When we work with Executives and Leaders, a big part of the work we do is helping them uncover their blind-spots and then developing the tools to be accountable for the blind-spot behavior. 

The same goes in Organizational Behavior, if you want your organization to behave in a particular way, you determine the appropriate behaviors that give you the results you want and then you work to ritualize the behaviors.

Those behaviors are always founded in the behaviors of decency.  Speak straight and respectfully, be respectful of others, stand for others success, speak openly and honestly, listen from the other’s perspective, etc. What we often refer to as “sandbox rules” for adults.

An organization built on decency will prosper, and in ways that organizations that are guided by business principles alone will not.

An editorial from The Guardian, UK addresses this:

Sustainability should be at the heart of business thinking. The view that maximizing profit is the only thing that counts and everything else is window dressing has always been a crude and short-sighted approach. But in an age of globalization and instant social media, the risks for a company if it is a bad corporate citizen are much greater.

What happens in supplier companies on the other side of the world can be flashed on to customers’ computer screens within seconds, leaving a reputation in shreds.


You will hear more about this theme, The Economics of Decency, in future blogs. 

It’s a focus of organizational and human development that we are developing a body of thought around.  A body of thought that will guide the leadership of organizations, as well as individuals in pathways of pride and performance.

There is a great deal of discourse in our cultural conversation that decries the absence of respect and kindness.  It’s very evident, and not limited to, in our current political dialogue.  

Organizations that choose to build their success on the sound principles of economics and the practices of decency can lead the way to return our society to a more collaborative and harmonious character.  

I believe we are born with decency in our heart, it just gets clouded by our Narrators until we no longer notice it in ourselves. 

Silence your Narrator, the alternative is only stressful and draining.



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