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#320: Leadership lessons from the Durham Report
Washington is often a go to for lessons on leadership, not lessons to follow, but ones to avoid
The ends justify the means - Niccolo Machiavelli.
One of the most famous quotes ever has played out over the past several years. The Durham Report provides Americans with an inside look at a brazen attempt by the FBI and other agencies to frame a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
The motivation from the individuals seems to have been that they felt this candidate was an existential threat to the United States. Furthermore, they thought any help they could offer would protect the American people, even if it meant breaking the rules. That is a concise summary of this 316-page report. If you want to read the entire thing, please feel free; here is the LINK.
This blog is not political; it uses the ends justify the means argument to show you how this can and will affect our business.
How can we apply this lesson to the teams we lead?
Ask for forgiveness instead of pleading for permission
Have you created a culture to allow people to bend the rules of engagement as long as they have positive results?
Several years ago, I saw an opportunity for business in Brazil. A division of one of my customers was working on a project where I knew we could help with our products and technology. However, it required a face-to-face meeting with the design team to develop trust and relationships for us to move forward.
The problem was that nobody was technically responsible for South America, and the trip would be costly. There was an interim CEO at our organization looking to cut costs at every opportunity, and if I had asked for permission, I would have been denied. You can argue that the strategy was short-sighted, the return on investment would be significant, and many good debate points, but I didn’t want to beg for permission. I booked the trip, won the business, and upon my return, I was denied engineering resources when I turned in the purchase order for the prototype.
In the above example, the CEO made an obvious cultural statement. That denial informed the rest of the organization that the ends do not justify the means. So no matter how much it meant to the organization, there are rules we put in place that need to be followed in the future.
Our organizations have rules in place, and if you look one way for some and another way for others, you lose the one thing that is hard to win back: trust. That is the biggest lesson from the Durham Report. Americans are losing faith at an accelerating rate in their government and its institutions. How could your organization survive this level of distrust? Would you lose employees or customers?
Tough and unpopular decisions
We don’t use polls to make decisions, primarily when it revolves around culture. If one of your cultural signposts is that rules shall never be broken, examples must be made. For example, the CEO that made the difficult decision possibly cost the company a large contract, but he adhered to his principles and reinforced the culture.
There are no shortcuts on the staircase to success. For example, do you want the quality control manager to let a few things go to meet a production quota? Or maybe the accounts receivable clerk writes off a few loans because it’s easier than making the extra effort to collect on them.
We have policies, procedures, and processes that must be enforced for one simple reason; to maintain the integrity of the product or service. If you lose money, that is a short-term problem, but losing integrity can cost you more.
These tough decisions and hard work today will lead to a better tomorrow. If you are having trouble making these decisions, and need someone to kick it around with, call us at the Kole Performance Group.