Leadership Lesson

What does ’being fair’ really mean?

What does being ’fair’ really mean?

How can you ever be fair to both sides? It will always be an eternal argument.

Here I’ll share two life stories, 25 years apart and how fairness can be achieved.

When we were young, my sibling and I used to fight for the larger piece of the cake. We accused the other of not being fair and taking the bigger slice for themselves. This happened each time.

Most parents would know that a straightforward rule fixes this forever. One child gets to cut the cake, and the other child gets to choose the piece. As you would guess, the cake gets cut with laser precision each time, and the problem solved forever.

One child gets to cut the cake, and the other child gets to choose the piece.

Twenty-five years later, in one of the large American tech organisations that I worked with, our contract negotiations (C&N) team drew up a services agreement for our client. Once, one of our large Japanese customers – was handed over a voluminous 30-page services contract to sign.

The client requested for an editable word document and returned it for signing in 48 hours. My C&N team was shocked and angry at the ‘massively edited’, ‘totally one-sided’ version of the contract. In a subsequent meeting, their CFO said they just did ’find and replace’ of the and interchanged the two organisations names. They wished to highlight how one-sided company’s contracts were. They asked us to re-draft an agreement that was ’fair to both’.

My company learnt a lesson, but for me, it was a complete revelation on what can be fair in business and still a guiding principle as an entrepreneur.

Being ’fair and honest’ to both sides is not a difficult thing to do if the ’intent’ is to be fair and have win-win thinking. The problem arises only, and only when that ’thought of fairness’ is corrupted. Even a trace of corruption, the big idea of being fair goes out of the window.

What are your experiences?

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