Getting the Best From Your People by Preventing the Worst

Getting the Best From Your People by Preventing the Worst

In my previous post, I talked about the GM safety scandal and some of the reasons such things go on for so long without anyone “knowing”. In fact in all cases of corporate wrong doing and malfeasance, people do know but for many reasons the problems do not surface for long periods of time.

In many corporate circles today, managers and leaders are  writing off instances of wrongdoing as aberrations without relevance to them. This is a mistake. Corporate crime anchors one end of a continuum of performance problems, ranging from outright theft to more subtle instances of ripping off the company for supplies, padding expense accounts, ignoring product defects, or simply failing to perform all duties in a quality manner.

We should look closely at corporate wrongdoing and rip-offs for lessons about how to get the best out of people by preventing the worst.

In several previous posts, I have written about creating environments where people are engaged and inspired. Organizations that live and breathe quality, that set high standards, that pay attention to detail are less vulnerable to misconduct and general ineffectiveness. Senior executives who convey a sense of moral integrity and provide opportunities to openly discuss ethical and operational dilemmas reduce confusion over proper and improper behavior.

Companies that provide multiple and balanced rewards and forms of recognition, that tolerate reasonable mistakes, are more likely to correct problems when they occur, not after they have been ignored for so long they become disasters. Where teamwork and shared, overlapping responsibilities are encouraged there is less “passing the buck’ and more joint resolution or problems. Individuals are able to discuss and resolve dilemmas common to the group.

To improve performance and reduce costly misbehaviors, leaders can build these factors into the organization: quality as opposed to inattention to detail; multiple rewards and recognition; rewards for individuals and teams; a tolerance for well-intended mistakes; and integrative cultures rather than segmented units.

Leaders who want to create a great company need to look on the dark side—the possibility of ‘evil’–as well as the positive values of faith in people and trust in their integrity. They need to devote personal time and attention to making sure that performance problems do not slip unnoticed and unpunished. Corporate philosophies saying that achievement is rewarded and good performance is valued mean nothing unless, simultaneously, bad performance is rendered impossible. 1


  1. 1 – Gandossy, Robert and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, See no Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil—Leaders Must Respond to Employee Concerns About Wrongdoing, Business and Society Review 107:4 415-422.

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