What Does “Right” Look Like?

what-right-looks-likeWells Fargo. Enron.  The Challenger disaster. The Ford Pinto.  The Baylor University football program.  The list goes on for a long, long time.  These are examples of doing the wrong thing – often with the senior leadership actually leading the wrong, or at the very least condoning the wrongdoing.

It would be almost natural at this point to jump on the bandwagon and join the howls of protest at this poor leadership, greed, and misconduct.  But we’ll take a different approach in this message.  Instead, we’ll suggest some ways you can know when right is being done, many times when no one is looking.  If you seek out these activities, and reward those responsible, you’ll grow the seeds of doing right into the fruits of a culture of excellence.  And your competition won’t be able to touch you.

So, what does “right” look like?

First, look for mutual accountability.  When your team members hold each other accountable, great teams emerge.  What are the signs of mutual accountability?

  1. Your meetings are short and concise.  All of the deliverables are delivered.  No one is making excuses like “Well, I sent everyone an email and asked for input, but I didn’t get any responses.”
  2. Your leaders bring you recommendations and ideas, not problems for you to solve. The line outside your office gets much smaller, too.
  3. You see After Action Reviews taking place without your prompting your teams to conduct them. Learning is underway, not blame.

Next, look for positive reinforcement, not negative.  What are the signs of positive reinforcement?

  1. Emails are not full of negative terms like “Don’t” and “You are not allowed to”. Instead, they should say “Here’s how we get to yes.”
  2. People have conversations, not electronic exchanges. You see more one on one sessions on your leader’s calendars.
  3. Your leaders know their people. They know spouse names, children, hobbies of those on their teams.  Ask them and see what answers you get.

Finally, survey your teams and see how they view their leaders.  Use something simple like a “Says versus Does” survey.  Then, take action on the results.  If you get feedback that leaders are walking the talk, make sure your leaders know that.  If that’s not the case, put an action plan together and implement it.

How do you reward these activities?  First, celebrate small wins.  Reward people who prevent accidents or incidents.  Recognize those who step up and volunteer for project leads.  Give them authority as well as the responsibility.  Make it a point to meet with the most promising leaders face to face on a regular basis.  Spend more time on the best, and less time on the ones who will probably never get it.  The latter will probably self select at some point anyway.

You can grow the seeds of a world class culture by recognizing and rewarding doing the right thing.  Start today and see what happens.  You’ll be amazed with the results.  Enjoy the journey!