Dennis has been with us at The Masters Forum on four occasions. During his first appearance, while delivering a presentation titled Ultimate Issues, he asked an interesting question:
"If you could choose just one of the four, would you want your children to grow up to be happy, smart, successful, or good?"He asked us to make a choice and discuss it with a person sitting nearby. Incidentally, there is a correct answer to the question as far as Dennis is concerned: good. This jibes with his philosophy that the most basic and meaningful way to sort people or behavior is to use two boxes: one marked Good; the other marked Evil.
Then came a second question:
"If I asked your children which of the four they think you want most for them, what would their answer be?"In other words, he wanted us to consider the possibility that we might be saying one thing is important with our words, while unwittingly reinforcing another with our deeds.
Steve Kerr, former Chief Learning Officer of both GE and Goldman Sachs, says we are prone to making this same mistake in our roles as managers and leaders. His classic article - On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B - sheds light on the subject.
- How do you typically let others know what you expect of them?
- How do you check to see that they are absolutely clear about what you want?
- How do you ensure that what you are asking for and what gets rewarded are one and the same?
- If you could choose just one of the four, would you want those who work with you - or for you - to be happy/engaged in their work, smart/committed to learning, successful/getting the job done, or good/doing what's right?
- If you asked them, what would they say you want most?
“Don't you draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy, she'll beat you if she's able. You know, the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet.” The Eagles, Desperado
"I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?" - John Steinbeck, East of Eden