Wednesday of this week was the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a complicated man and had a complicated presidency, presiding over the Civil War, signing the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus among many other tough situations. His presidency ended, of course, with a story we all know that took place in Ford’s Theater 150 years ago this week.
By the way and totally off topic, if you have never visited Washington, D.C. and seen Ford’s Theater and the Peterson House across the street where a dying Lincoln was taken, it’s worth the trip. Also, for Midwesterners, a trip to Springfield, Illinois is one you won’t forget if you are at all interested in Lincoln. I lived in Springfield for a few years and have seen all the Lincoln sites (his office, his home, his presidential library, etc.). My all-time favorite is Lincoln’s tomb, and I have attached a picture. You enter the memorial, inside of which are entombed Lincoln, his wife and three of his four sons.
As I read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address this week (so well written and I bet it was equally well delivered), something struck me that was both unsettling and exciting. Success takes guts. Lincoln could have taken the easy way out and not stood up for his belief that our country was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.’” Instead he took the tough road and we can all thank him for that today.
We are frequently faced with situations in business and with customers that require us to decide between the easy way and the tough, but right way. Yes, I know…not quite the same as the decisions made to try and save a country torn in two, still they are important to us.
Sometimes, it is easiest to just do what we are asked by our boss or by a customer. That prevents us from expressing an opinion or providing advice about an alternative that could be better, could be more valuable. It likely even prevents us from delivering the best customer experience.
Sometimes, it is easiest to keep our mouths closed in the interest of team harmony. That prevents an exchange of opinions that could lead to the right decisions or better solutions. It could prevent the use of customer intelligence to improve our offering and add more value for our customers.
Maybe a few of Lincoln’s advisors were saying, “Let ‘em go if they don’t want to be part of our great nation. They will likely fail anyway.” That might have been the easy way out, but think what that would have done to what is now one of the most successful, productive and abundant countries in the world. No, he took the tough way.
Next time you are faced with a tough situation, think about the decisions made by people before us and the guts it took to make some of these decisions. That just might give you the support you need to take the high road rather than the easy one.