I was sitting in a bar on top of an elegant hotel with my boss and his boss. Out of the blue my boss turned to me and said, “Brad, you need to take a stand.”
Although my boss was smart, principled, and funny, he often drank too much and said inappropriate things, at inappropriate times, and in inappropriate places. This was especially true on this occasion.
He started by telling me that winning the district manager of the year award meant little. I had won it all three years that I was in the field. This national (U.S.) award featured generous cash and gift prizes, an overseas trip to the company’s manufacturing headquarters, and a multiday tour of the country. So it was a big deal. Years two and three, I opted to give the trip to the second-place winner. Our conversation took place after the 3rd year winners were announced.
He then went on to say that the award did not accurately measure the important performances of a district manager. And that what I needed was to “take a stand.” I was confused by both comments and wrote them off to the effects of alcohol.
It took a long time to fully understand and appreciate what he was talking about. He was talking about taking a stand on your principles and desires and having the courage to enforce them.
I may have said parts of this, but here’s how that incident would have played out in terms of a response after having taken a stand in life. I would have said, “You set the rules. If the award means little, change the criteria and let’s see how I do.” Realizing I was dealing with an intoxicated asshole, I would have stood up and said, “Gentlemen! It’s been nice talking with you. Goodnight.”
With long since developed stand taking and an unwillingness to put up with any bullshit, my record since then prove that my response to my boss would be exactly as described. But you can’t go back. Monday morning quarterbacking means nothing in terms of taking a stand. Monday morning quarterbacking is just a lame “shoulda woulda” look at missed opportunities to be courageous and take a stand.
I ran into my former boss at industry events where I was a speaker a few times after he had left the company and I had gotten a promotion. His behavior toward me was very different and respectful. Although his method that night was misguided and inappropriate, I’ve come to find value in his message. And I still admire his grit and humor.
I encourage you to take a stand with your principles, beliefs, and dreams. I think you’ll be immensely proud of having done so down the road.