Here’s one of the most important questions a leader must ask: How do we do business?
It’s critical to establish the values and ethics that undergird any organization. This alerts everyone—from employees to vendors to customers—how the company operates and what factors shape executive decisions.
Bill George, former CEO of medical device maker Medtronic, urges leaders to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for deviations from organizational rules. Whether you’re overseeing safety protocols at a nuclear plant or preventing employees stationed overseas from accepting bribes, there can be no tolerance for infractions.
It’s fine to give someone a second chance for an innocent mistake. But for individuals who knowingly violate company rules or cross ethical boundaries, you should not give second chances.
When everyone understands that you treat your zero-tolerance policy seriously—and you enforce it consistently—they will uphold ethical standards. If they choose to break the rules, they cannot claim ignorance when you discipline or terminate them.
Another key to leading people to do the right thing: Let them learn on the job. Rather than pressure staffers to produce instant results, give them time to observe experts and gain insight.
When George joined Medtronic as president in 1989, his boss told him, “Don’t worry about the numbers for six months. Get out and learn the business from the top doctors.” George watched the most respected physicians implant pacemakers and defibrillators, which in turn gave him a better appreciation for how to make sound operational and strategic decisions that would benefit Medtronic’s customers.
— Adapted from “Authentic leaders,” Bill George, www.leaderexcel.com.
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