When “Do the Right Thing” Goes All Wrong

We’ve all heard of companies that have some version of “Do the Right Thing” type of core values.  Some even express that more emphatically with “Do the right thing even when no one is looking.”  Then how is it that it goes all wrong, sometimes even daily, at these businesses? And you may be asking yourself, is there anything a leader can do to change that?

If you look seriously at past incidents of “wrong things” you will likely see decisions were made and actions were taken that lacked perspective.  Making “Right” business decisions requires balancing at least three perspectives — company, customer, and employee.  You can even add to that list key vendors, lenders and partners. The mantra “do the right thing” from a leader’s perspective means “for all.”

But we are not raised in a “for all” society. Our present culture strongly promotes that to win, someone must lose. If you play or even simply enjoy watching sports, if you are involved in politics in any way, if you watch the news, you are bombarded with messages that win-lose is the only way.

And yet we know that every great leader in business, in government, or in church leadership thinks differently. The great leaders (consider Abraham Lincoln) sought to serve in a way where all involved were winners at the outcome.

What I know is one of your critical key responsibilities as a leader is to model and teach your team the broader multiple perspective of “do right” that equals win-win-win. Reality dictates people’s upbringing and  life experiences create their perspective and personal truth on what “right” is to them.  As a leader, you must explain all perspectives to your team in a clearly understandable way.  When is the last time you did that? I hope not too long ago as it should be daily.

Think back to the last time something went “wrong”. Shoulder complete responsibility and ask yourself where your system failed.  For instance maybe:

  •  A wrong person was hired. That means your hiring system needs revamping, likely with greater emphasis on culture fit before skills.
  •  A sales team employee cared so deeply about customers that they continually sacrificed company assets and profits and bragged about it. You clearly lacked sales decision and ROI training.
  •  An employee asked you for a raise even though they knew your company had a tough profit year. That means your compensation system lacked clear expectations or even might lack profit-based compensation structures.

As you realize you are responsible as the leader for what was or is happening, use these three steps for fewer “All Wrong” incidents:

  1.  Deliberately and daily communicate, train and model the three perspectives — company, customer and employee for “Right” behaviors and decisions.
  2. Use failures as learning for system corrections without blame. Personally shoulder responsibility for all wrongs as the leader of your business.
  3. Create a culture of catching people doing “Right” within the three perspectives model (and get smarter about the five ways humans want appreciation expressed to match what is meaningful to them. This was taught a previous CEOX event.

If you do these three steps consistently, over time you will create an awesome culture where your team is consistently “doing right” and where you sleep at night having every confidence in them to make great choices.

 

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