Everybody Else is Doing It

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Everybody Else is Doing It

Last week, in his coming out confession before Oprah Winfrey and a yawning world, cyclist Lance Armstrong implied that, when it occurred, he didn’t feel that his persistent cheating in cycling competitions was wrong because everyone else was doing it.

A day or so later, invoking the example of her older sister, my three year old granddaughter offered the same reasoning when corrected by her mom for running in the house.

It would be one thing if this were confined to a handful of super-star athletes and young children. But it’s not. Witness the facts that, in corporate America:

  • Precious few organizations are adequately training their new staff members these days, either because “we can’t afford it” (have you priced ignorance lately?), because “they won’t be here long anyhow” and, you guessed it… because everyone else is doing it. Really?
  • Many organizations continue to irritate customers by off-shoring customer-facing call-centers to countries where the language and culture don’t mesh particularly well with those of callers because… A. They think it’s cheaper, and B. Everyone else is doing it.
  • We see managers regularly overlooking meaningful performance and behavioral discrepancies in the workspace because, you guessed it…

Please pardon the rather closed-minded point of view on this, but everyone else is NOT doing it. Moreover, for those of us who are considered business leaders of any stripe, we get paid to set the bar higher, first for ourselves, and then others. Averting our eyes to this reality can, in the short run, be a source of competitive edge. But the problem is, where (and when) do you draw the line? How do you put the worms back in the can? How do you un-do the example that has been set for all those who are watching?

Here are three things that leaders at different levels can do to keep things on a higher plain:

Senior leaders – Make it known throughout your entire organization that those who lie, cheat, or steal will be ejected like a virus. At the same time, be clear that people will not have their employment terminated for doing what they truly considered to be the right thing. (This is distinct and apart from those who, over time, demonstrate bad judgment).

Level 2 Leaders – Make sure that your new and emerging leaders get the benefit not only of appropriate training offerings, but of your good example as well. Insist that they always set the bar high, and teach them how to coach their team-members to higher levels of performance and behavior.

Front Line Leaders – Never forget that those who look to you for guidance and direction also look to you to paint bright lines about what behavior is in and out of bounds, and then to hold people’s feet to the fire, regardless of who their uncle is, or whether or not they are a star performer.

We are convinced that the cumulative effect of these behaviors actually puts your team in better position to win yellow jerseys that you won’t later have to give back.rn

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