The Courage to Protect Your Culture

I’m not sure of the original attribution of the accompanying visual – I think Jack Welch talked about the principle in a video I saw once. It speaks to an issue that I see too often: organizations have nice posters around the place proclaiming their values, but someone who habitually violates them is tolerated because their numbers are good. Google ‘whistleblower bank’ and you’ll get some good contemporary examples.

If you allow people with good results but poor respect for your values to continue with their act, you utterly undermine your leadership credibility and erode the culture.

I have often interviewed clients’ employees to be told that a draconian or sociopathic manager is causing poor morale, the departure of good but under-appreciated people, or is even upsetting customers, but that “the boss must want them to be like that, or else they would have done something about it.”

As long as we can verify the facts, I tell my clients that they should indeed do something about it. This is a test of leadership courage. Although it may be tempting to keep these ‘high performers’ for the apparently attractive results they bring, you actually incur all sorts of hidden costs: managerial time dealing with the friction, lower morale among other staff, loss of talent, and knock-on effects on customers. And weakened managerial credibility for you.

Other than that, as the saying goes, there’s nothing wrong with it.