Thursday, November 15, 2012

Global Leadership "Every time you walk past a mistake, you have just set a new standard"

I'm not sure when or where I picked this truism up...clearly it was in the Army at some point.  There are a couple of important messages embedded in that slogan..

One is that what you do is more important than what you say as a leader.  In many organizations, leader development is so good that just about everyone says the right things.  Staff, however, watch a leader's behavior to determine what they really intend to enforce. If you tell everyone that wearing of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) is mandatory, yet walk past someone not wearing a hard hat or reflective vest and don't say anything, your actions have just set a new standard...wearing PPE isn't important.  If you see someone smoking in a designated non-smoking area and don't say anything, you have just set a new standard.  If a driver gets in a vehicle on company property and doesn't fasten their seat belt and you see it and don't say anything, you have just set a new standard.

A second point is that first line leaders play a primary role in work-place safety.  Yes, Health and Safety professionals play a role, and yes, compliance with regulations is important and yes, senior leaders show their commitment by personal involvement....all of that is true enough..  However front-line leaders are most likely to see mistakes and make the on-the-spot correction and enforce standards.

A final point is staff don't go around looking for ways to avoid standards.  They get in a hurry, they have multiple priorities, they've taken shortcuts before and nothing bad happened so they take them again.

Being the "standards police" isn't the most fun part of being a leader but it is part of looking out for the welfare of those you lead. 

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