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Compromise – The Key to Success or The Root of all Evil?

Anyone who has had a teenage daughter in the house will know the treacherous waters that need to be navigated over that time. It has to be the most complex phase of life, as they battle to find their space in the world. It’s that balancing act between belonging and being accepted by your peers and carving a niche for yourself as an individual.

At the tender age of 14, my daughter taught me something this week about compromise. We’ve always tried to teach her that compromise is what makes relationships work – as her parents, we are living proof of that. But what she taught us this week, is that there are some things that you just don’t compromise on, regardless of how unpopular that makes you. Her EQ is beyond her years. She has mature principles and ethics around honesty and fairness that are unwavering… and no matter what consequences unfold, she absolutely will not compromise on those.

She’s right. While I still stand by my belief that compromise is necessary for successful relationships, your core values and principles can never be compromised.

When do you compromise and when do you stand your ground in business?

We recently had a client with dodgy ethical principles… the money was good, and the project was exciting, so we took the contract in the hope that we could influence their behaviour and culture to become more responsible and ethical. Big mistake. When your values are misaligned upfront, there is no basis for a business relationship. We should have realised at the outset that this was never going to work out. Compromising one of our core values burnt us. Lesson learned!

In stark contrast, we currently have a number of clients who share our values. We are working well together precisely because we stand for and believe in the same things. We can compromise on the details of the programme, we are accommodating and flexible where necessary, but no party is expecting the other party to compromise on what is really important to them.

In any business, there need to be certain rules of the game that everyone buys into and which are non-negotiable. These rules of the game ensure that you get the right people on board at the outset and that you attract the right type of customer. Shared principles bind the team, provide parameters in which to operate, guide behaviour and guide decision making.
Stop trying to fit in and please everyone. Take time to think about what you absolutely will not compromise on. What are your non-negotiables? What do you stand for and believe in? What values would you fiercely protect even if it means walking away from potential business?

Whether you are a 14-year-old teenager or a multinational corporation, every individual and every business develops a reputation for something, whether you consciously influence it or not. Having strong and powerful principles that you stand by consciously shapes your reputation, leaves little room for ambiguity, and attracts like-minded friends and clients.

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