Follow the Leader?

John Ikeda

We often discuss integrity from a perspective of "right" or "wrong," but it can also mean a sense of wholeness (the word is derived from the Greek word "integer," which literally translated means "whole"). If you can't turn off your cell phone, the underlying reason is that you do not trust your team to make a decision that you can live with, or you do not feel that they have the skills necessary to evaluate a situation and come up with the correct recommendation.

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As a leader, you must teach the members of your team what is important to you and your project. As an example, do you feel more comfortable when decisions are based on financial outcomes, deadlines or people? Different companies value different things based on the inherent culture of the organization. What does your company value?

 

You are out of the office and get a call at in the afternoon. Your team is a few hours behind on a deliverable that is due in the morning. They had planned to be done by 5, but there is another three hours of work to be done. Two members of your team have to pick up their kids from day care and one has tickets to the premier sporting event of the year that cost $500. The last member of your team has plans that have been long in the making.

 

The focus here is not on your answer, as there will be many different opinions based on your organization's culture. What is important is that your team had to call you to get an answer. If you are going to tell them they have to stay until the work gets done, why didn't they know that beforehand? They could have made alternate plans to have kids picked up, or perhaps changed their plans earlier in the day. If you were really on top of things, they would have known the day before how behind they were, and could have stayed later yesterday to get things caught up.

 

There are so many situations where a decision must be made that you may get calls for: how to handle a late deliverable, what to say to an irate customer, what do you do when the customer wants to increase the scope of your project. The list is endless, but you must attempt to educate your team on what is important to you and how they can go about making decisions that you can trust.

 

This I Believe

As a leader, it is imperative that you mentor the people around you in determining the right thing to do. Before you can teach them, you must have an understanding of what you believe to be the foundation upon which you base your decisions on. How do you determine appropriate behavior? What is your yardstick to measure your actions against?

 

This I believe. If you were to write a one-page statement that started off with this statement, what would it say? Imagine you had to leave work for an extended period of time but were still going to be held accountable for all that happens in your absence. What would you tell your staff? Don't use statements like "value people above all else," "get the job done" or "the customer is always right." Those are pretty bold statements that are too simple to apply to the reality of business.

 

An example of a good value statement is, "I value listening to all parties involved in any discussion." This is something that someone can do in all cases. In regards to work ethics, it would be fairly simple to write out your expectations. Having difficulty with solving an issue? Try referring them to the issues resolution process.

 

Take the time to define what you believe by developing a Credo Statement. Write a one-page memo that describes what you believe to be the heart and soul of your business philosophy. Be careful and thoughtful if you use cliches such as "integrity" or "honesty." These are superficial words that mean nothing in the actual trenches where work gets done. What does honesty or integrity look like? Paint a picture for your staff and employees that can be used as a barometer against which they can measure their actions. When someone is faced with a dilemma, provide them something they can use to help get through it in a way that mirrors your expectations.

 

What types of things do you want to focus on in your Credo Statement depends upon the problems you are currently facing. Take some time to reflect on the kinds of phone calls you receive and look for patterns. You might also look at times when you were upset with a decision that was made by your team that you did not agree with. Focus first on these areas to help bring clarity and integrity to your team.

 

By writing and distributing a one-page (overkill here is not a good thing) credo, you will start the education process where a dialogue can now be had with your team on areas that may be particularly gray. If you have the courage to do this, you should see the number of phone calls you receive decline and better decisions being made by your team.

John Ikeda is a PMI certified PMP and owner of Honorable Leadership, a company dedicated to business and personal growth with integrity. His professional career started as a Naval Aviator and he is currently a Commander in the Naval Reserves. With more than 18 years of management and leadership experience, he has shared his talents with various organizations both privately held and in the state and local government sectors.


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"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

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