An open letter to CNL Commercial Real Estate: Conviction is easy

Posted on March 26, 2015

Franklin D. Roosevelt Banner

Conviction is easy. It’s a piece of cake.

I am convicted I need to lose weight, but will I say no to the potato chips that call out my name?

It’s easy to be convicted that we shouldn’t lie, especially when we aren’t tempted to lie.

It’s easy to be convicted that we should defend our country, or send troops to this place or that, until your child has to go.

It’s easy to be convicted that the man on the street begging for money should just get a job and I won’t give him money because he will spend it on “the wrong things”. Yet I waste far more money than he does and I have 100 times the advantages.

As a believer, it is really easy to be convicted that I should love all others as I love myself especially when it comes to my family, my friends, my partners, those that love me….but what about the person that hates me, or the child at high school that teases my daughter?

A conviction isn’t a conviction unless it is challenged. It’s just a good idea, or a moral position to take that feels good, it isn’t integrated into your life until it is tested, until it gets messy, maybe until you fail at holding it.

I am convicted that our culture remains my #1 objective, so here is the question. How convicted are you in our mission to make the world a better place? How convicted are you in each of the components of that mission?

1) Building meaningful relationships;

2) Serving our owners, investors, customers, associates and partners;

3) Impacting the communities within and around the projects we service, acquire and build.

How convicted are you that we should treat the needs of all of our constituents as our own needs? I hope you are, because for the most part we developed this mission based on the feedback from all of our associates, in fact many of you edited the mission. Yet when we developed it we were at 100 associates, less than a year later we are over 180. Thus the need for a consistent and continued focus on this discussion of our culture.

Here is a scary anecdote. The following are Enron’s corporate values:

  • Communication – We have an obligation to communicate
  • Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated
  • Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely.
  • Excellence – We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.

It was accompanied by a 64 page Code of Ethics manual.

Tough to argue with their values, we are saying some of the same things.

Yet what a flameout Enron was, why are we any different?

The simplest fact I can discern is that what they wrote and how the senior leaders of the company behaved were at total odds with each other. They focused on pride and greed and economics at all costs in the face of a public proclamation around a conviction of values…and their world collapsed, perhaps as it should have, and a lot of people were hurt along the way.

The seeds of conviction, almost always, are doubt and failure.

The seeds of conviction, almost always, are doubt and failure. If we truly wrestle with doubt, whether in one’s faith or their belief around work (“it’s just business” vs. work as a calling) as an example, then one’s convictions will be cemented in the answers to tough questions. Failure of or around a personal conviction, or seeing someone else fail and suffer the consequences will really convict you as to the truth of that conviction, because now you know what it looks like on the other side of it.

You are the stewards of our culture, our mission, you can build it or you can break it. What you have built over this journey thus far has been tremendous to watch. As we continue, we will no doubt make mistakes and perhaps violate some of these values but how do we respond in the face of that challenge? Is it a conviction or is it a good idea? Time will tell.

Paul Ellis<
Written by Paul Ellis
Group President of CNL Commercial Real Estate 

CNL Commercial Real Estate is comprised of passionate individuals that love what they do. While our blog will primarily be directed towards our internal team, we hope that it gives those that we care about most, our customers, associates, partners and friends a look inside our culture and will give everyone a better understanding why we do what we do.