From Street Sweepers to Google

Reprinted from ThinkWay Strategies with minor edits…


“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


In November of 2015, Google released the results of a two-year internal study. According to an article in The Huffington Post, “Google discovered that people work best when they trust their coworkers and feel like they can take risks, depend on one another and understand the team’s goals.”


To which I say… duh.


Not to be too disrespectful (ok, maybe just a little – sorry), what’s up with that? A two-year study? Shouldn’t we have already known this? Aren’t we already aware that virtue is good for business? And integrity? And trust?


In some respects, maybe it’s understandable. In a country divided on so many topics, with discourse so heated and personal attacks so common, with the loudness of negativity, people of integrity and virtuous business practices tend to stand apart (see Johnsonville Sausage, for example)… when they stand.


You see, we actually know these things. In fact, contrary to what many say publicly about a lack of trust in business leadership, 76% of respondents in the 2015 ThinkPoints Transformation Survey anonymously agreed or strongly agreed their leaders have integrity and can be trusted to do the right thing. Leaders just like you.


So, we also need courage, in the original sense of the word. Courage comes from an old Latin word -cor and meant “with the whole heart”. We need more people to publicly, courageously, stand up for integrity and virtue, both in the workplace and in our civil discourse.


Let me just come out and say it: work is intrinsically a good thing. And by extension, business can be a good thing if we are people of integrity and virtue. Just look at the 80% reduction in the poverty rate in the world over the last 40 years due to free enterprise.


So, whether you’re the janitor or the CEO (in my case, I’m both), people of integrity and virtue can stand up and accomplish great things together in business and the world. 


Let’s aspire to that… together.