Here’s yet another story that you may identify with—or have yet to experience in your business life. It’s one of those that define your leadership for all to see, sometimes based upon decisions made in the moment—such as this one.
A story of a CEO’s snap judgment call
Years ago, when I was CEO of my record manufacturing company in Hollywood, I happened to walk around the plant into the press room just as Bobby, one of the employees’ favorite coworkers, was offering stolen merchandise to his fellow pressmen from a bag he was carrying. He halted, and waited for me to react, obviously caught in the act. Everyone loved Bobby, a hard worker and good friend. But I fired him on the spot; the only possible response to the situation presented me so suddenly. After initial shock, a number of employees came to me that day and said that they understood how hard that decision was, but that they knew it was the right thing to do.
How your decisions affect your company
You will find many times during your management years when such decisions are placed before you, requiring quick unwavering response to an ethical challenge to you or your company. How you comport yourself in these situations is absolutely the litmus test for how your company culture will reflect your actions. Take home company supplies for personal use? Your employees will surely follow your lead, no matter what the policy. Treat personal expenses at company cost, and your sales people will feel just fine doing the same until caught.
Behave without regard for an individual’s dignity when separating an employee who is a direct report, and other managers will feel little compunction to spend the extra time and energy softening their actions. Alter any accounting result for the sake of making a month look good, and your accounting department will get the message that GAAP accounting is just for show.
It is the difficult decisions that define your leadership
It is not easy to always be the moral compass for the organization, but it is the right thing and cannot be compromised. And you will continue to enjoy the stories of times taking the high road as retold to you by your employees over time.