What will you stand for?

Founder Ben Lichtenwalner stands and speaks in a meeting rom, gesturing to his left as he speaks, surrounded by executives who look and listening intently. What will you stand for? A little story of one time I made a stand, paid the price, then reaped the reward…

If looks could kill, the CIO would have assassinated me on the spot.

“If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” I was done falling for anything.

The CIO had a large ego and surrounded himself with yes men and (very few) women. The unwritten rule was clear: support him, or you limit your career options. So, when budget cuts came there was one direction only: terminate any employees he did not like.

The top 50 managers in the IT organization were gathered in an off-site meeting. Each of us were ordered to present who we would fire, for his review and approval. We listened as great employee after great employee was named. Many targets were close to retirement.

“This is insane”, I thought. People Leadership 101 teaches the values and benefits of offering early retirement packages in these scenarios. Terminating great employees, so he could keep yes people around was cultural suicide.

When it came my turn to present, I heard in my head, “if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”

“We need to stop this,” I said, “It’s going to hurt the organization. Instead, we should first seek employees interested in early retirement.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

The CIOs eyes shot darts at me. I finally made a stand. And yes, I’d limited my career choices under that CIO. However, as I learned soon after, I boosted my career options with his successor and the many excellent leaders in the room who went on to leadership roles in other organizations.

Standing for what is right may hurt you in the short-term, but it will pay off in the long-term.

What will YOU stand for?