I have a confession to make. This past week I made a mistake. I know, I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true. Maybe not so hard to believe, I make them every day. The problem with this one is that I overlooked something that I made the easy decision, setting aside my principles. I didn’t do the “Right Thing”.
If you read this Blog regularly you know that I have a passionate commitment to safety at Ebsco. I am currently putting together our ISO management plan for safety. Last week I overlooked a situation that was in violation of our policy, to get the work out. I SOLD OUT! Now I want to clarify that my decision did not put anyone in danger. A few years back this policy was not even in place and what I allowed was the standard practice then. That is not the point. We put the policy in place for a reason. I wrote the policy. When faced with a dilemma of how to get a part out for a customer, I took the easy way and allowed a corner to be cut.
When I told the boss, Cheryl about the situation she told me she was very surprised I had done this. She went on to say that with all of the time and effort I was putting into safety and the leadership role I had assumed, she was surprised that I would cut any corners, no matter how small. She was disappointed in me. She had reason to be. If the champion of safety is willing to cut a corner then why should anyone else follow the policies. It was not the single shortcut I took but the example I set for others. The potential consequences of my action had much farther reach than I considered.
Everyone has things they stand for, things that define them. These are our principles. When you cut corners on your principles it shows a lack of integrity. When you are in a leadership position, people watch your actions. Your actions are the validation of your words. When a leader cuts corners on their principles, it sends signals to others that their words have little meaning.
I was embarrassed when Cheryl called me on my decision. As I reflected on the situation I was disappointed in myself. I realized their were other solutions that would not have cut corners. they may have been slightly more difficult but they would have worked. I took the easy way out. I have always been proud that I stand behind my principles and that I practice what I preach. This was an instance where that wasn’t true.
Meeting with the production managers this week I informed them of the bad decision I made and made a commitment that my actions will reflect my words. I told them that it isn’t alright to cut corners and I expected the same from them. This was definitely a case of do as I say not as I had done. I have reaffirmed my commitment to acting on my principles and setting the example. I’ve learned that the easy decision isn’t always the right decision. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson on this situation and not on something much more serious. Look at the leaders some of the top Wall Street firms or Enron. They left their principles for the easy way and look what happened to them and all of their employees. It’s important for everyone to live by their principles but it is essential for leaders to set the example. The definition of integrity is “What you do when no one is looking”. but with leaders there is always someone watching.
If you’ll excuse I need time to put on my safety glasses and PPE to go out in the shop and ask someone a question. No cutting corners.