Company ABC is a leading Widget manufacture whose company values are: Integrity, Respect, Quality and Safety

A leader Maria asks her direct report John to provide his sales report to her by Wednesday afternoon because she needs to include it in her Board report, which is due on Friday.

John dutifully complies and submits his report by 4pm on Wednesday.

Early on Thursday morning John informs Maria that he has discovered an error in his sales figures (they are inflated) due to an incorrect formula inserted in excel.

Broadly there are three ways Maria could respond to John.

She could say “I didn’t pick up the error when reviewing your report, it doesn’t matter that much, so don’t worry about it. I don’t have time to deal with it before the Board report is due”.

Keeping in mind one of their company values is Integrity, does Maria’s response to John demonstrate that? Clearly no. She is essentially telling John that honesty and transparency is negotiable.

Secondly, Maria could say, “this is totally unacceptable John. I gave you one thing to do, and you can’t get that right! I am so annoyed at you right now. I don’t have time to deal with your incompetence”.

Again, keeping in mind the company’s values, is Maria behaving in a manner that exemplifies these? Again clearly no. By berating John, she is reminding John that transparency, honesty and taking responsibility for his mistakes are not valued, in fact, it’s the opposite. The effect of this will be that John will likely not report his mistakes to Maria again and therefore not behave in accordance with the company values.

Thirdly, Maria could say “Thanks for letting me know John, I didn’t pick it up and most likely the Board would not have too. I appreciate you owning this, you have shown real integrity. I am really under the pump to get the Board report finalised, how quickly can you amend the figures and get them back to me?

Whilst the third response requires the greatest restraint, it is also the greatest demonstration of leadership. In this instance, Maria reinforced, through her behaviour and John’s that Integrity is not negotiable and outweighs inconvenience!

So leading as I mentioned earlier is a lot like parenting. You have to be on your game, you are being observed by those around you. Consistency here is key as always.

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