A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city and attached the following message to his windshield: “I have circled this block 10 times. I have an appointment to keep. Forgive us our trespasses.”

When he returned to his car he found this reply attached to his own note, along with a parking ticket: “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I lose my job. Lead us not into temptation.”

We are all tempted in many ways. We want to purchase something, but don’t have the funds. We know we should exercise, but it’s easier to sit at home and binge-watch last season’s episodes. We want that dessert, but know it’s better if we don’t eat it.

“Temptation is a desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment that threatens long-term goals,” according to Wikipedia. Simply put, the human desire for the instant or the pleasurable can have negative consequences in the long run.

Temptation is all around us. For businesses, it might be bad-mouthing your competition. I can’t tell you how many salespeople I’ve come across who do this, but it’s a dangerous turnoff for customers.

For example, a co-worker was recently in the market for a new hot tub. He chose not to go with a specific manufacturer because the sales rep kept bad-mouthing his rivals.

Another temptation is to toot your own horn. I learned many years ago that if you can get someone else to broadcast your accomplishments, the message will go a lot further. No one likes a shameless self-promoter.

Similarly, I see many companies and individuals putting personal needs ahead of business needs. Be careful not to overspend, because nothing sinks a ship faster than people and companies overspending.

Another huge temptation for companies is expanding too fast. It’s helpful — perhaps critical — to have a seasoned veteran or two check your lavish plans. This can also apply to new executives coming into companies and doing too much, too soon, too fast. It’s better to listen and educate yourself before you shake things up too much.

I came across the book “The Five Temptations of a CEO” by Patrick Lencioni. He lists the most common pitfalls faced by leaders. The No. 1 temptation is choosing status over results. Many leaders are more interested in protecting their career status than focusing on company results. Achievement, not ego, should be the driving force.

The No. 2 temptation is choosing popularity over accountability. Leaders need to hold themselves and everyone around them accountable and communicate what is expected of them. If leaders do this successfully, they will be respected.

Coming in at No. 3 is choosing certainty over clarity. Leaders don’t have the luxury of waiting until they are absolutely certain before making a decision. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I was wrong.” Clarity is usually more important than accuracy.

Choosing harmony over conflict is temptation No. 4. Most people don’t want to rock the boat, so they seek harmony. However, establishing productive conflict is important, and that usually only happens in passionate conversations where people challenge each other.

Finally, the No. 5 temptation is choosing invulnerability over trust. T-R-U-S-T is the most important five-letter word in business. Without trust, you have nothing. And to trust your employees, you must put your careers in the hands of others and be vulnerable.

Face it: It’s hard to resist temptation. Sometimes the difference between wanting something and having it is too great. Sure, once you give in to temptation, you feel better. But that feeling usually doesn’t last.

We live in an instant-gratification world. But studies show that people who delay their gratification have more success when it comes to finances, relationships and achievements.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to become an owner in an emerging European basketball league. It was an enormous temptation. I love basketball, and to be a team owner would have been a dream come true.

But when it was my turn to commit, I passed. The other owners were shocked, to say the least. Sadly, the league folded a year later, and the owners lost millions. Temptation avoided. No regrets.

Mackay’s Moral: When you meet temptation, turn to the right.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.