Doing what is RIGHT may not be doing what is expected.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the &qu...
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The Failure of Merely Following Rules

All too often people are commended for following the rules. However, there are times when merely following the rules is not good enough. Frankly, sometimes just following the rules leads to failure.

Rules and laws guide people in understanding the minimal standard required to maintain order and preserve peace. However, I would argue that the case at Penn St. University illustrates the profound gap between exercising high standards in following policies and procedures and that of being a highly ethical leader.

  • The ethical leader is the one who will go above and beyond the call of duty, even if inconvenient, for what is right.
  • The ethical leader is the one who will put the organization and others first when a void exists between doing what is best and what is merely acceptable.

I do not seek to debate the actions of what happened at Penn St. Instead, I pose the questions:

What things of little or great significance slip between the cracks in your organization? How many times have people in your organization failed to seize the true opportunity of applying the highest level of ethics in doing what is right, choosing instead to do what is required? What is the consequence of this to you and your clients?

These questions are meant to open your eyes to the opportunities you face every day to set yourself, your team and your organization apart from the rest. This is the opportunity to instill in others the desire to do what is RIGHT, instead of what is ASKED.  So how do we close that gap?

1. Be transparent. Communicate. Live and breathe the organization’s values and principles. Help them realize that their job is important. Help them see why their job matters and how it affects the people you serve. Even though you may not be dealing with life or death issues, your team has been intentionally selected to contribute to the success of a shared family and those they serve.

2. Be firm. Make it clear that you expect excellence from them. Demand excellence in character and work ethic. Nothing is greater than the organization’s vision, mission and values. The more you demand excellence, the more they will benefit from being in a positive environment. They not only produce for the organization, but they represent the organization in every point of contact. It’s not excellence for the sake of it.  It’s not excellence for the purpose of making you look good or inflating your ego. Demand excellence because you know that they are capable of producing excellence and your clients deserve it!

3. Be present with them. Be visible. Have your team leaders be present. The way you treat them is how  your team will treat others. Rapport works magic with your clients and equally goes a long way with your staff. Exude the organization’s values in your work and your team will believe that it can be done.

4. Be consistent. Excellence has the ability to take place at any given moment. In the broader scheme, excellence occurs after the successful execution of tens, hundreds and thousands of miniscule, intentional and purposeful actions. Live it and exemplify it in your own actions. Realize the gain from it in your own life and they will follow.

5. Be generous and accountable. Give praise. Give feedback. Give the opportunity for others to be accountable. Give the opportunity for people to save face, get back up and find a way to succeed. Build them up along the way and they will value your contribution to their personal and professional development. You’re not just keeping people busy, you’re on a mission to help people learn how to live and be successful.

Following high standards is as much about the quality of the people you hire, as it is about the organization’s culture. Be aware and guide your organization into the path you choose your employees to follow.

It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.
Winston Churchill

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