A talented sportsman -taking calls on values

On last Saturday night we were watching the ICC T20 on TV, when the subject of Symonds, an Australian player, being sent back because of his act of indiscipline. Someone commented that Australia should not have sent Symonds back since he was a match winner. Symonds was dropped for not turning up for practice. There were other instances of his behavior attracting disciplinary actions.

Taking calls on matters related to the values -whether that means stopping shipments of suspect quality of goods, letting a successful sales person go because he overpromised or refused to collaborate on prospects handled by others, not allowing accountants to suppress facts in financial statements, etc. -is the toughest leadership challenge.

Some people argue that performance is all that matters. Extra-ordinarily talented people at times transgress the boundaries of acceptable behavior. They also make a huge difference to outcomes when they participate. But to say that such behavior is necessary for excellent performances is not correct.

CEOs would not hesitate in acting on issues like fraud or dishonesty but many of them may be tempted to take decisions like the above for short term gains. Such compromises damage the working environment in many ways. They send wrong signals. Other employees may be tempted to reach simialr compromises to boost their performance figures. They can demoralise talnted and conscientious people, who are the backbone of any organisation. They can damage team spirit. Compromises like these lead to suppression of other problem signals creating a severe handicap for the top leaders, since no body will talk openly about them.

Some precautions are necesary though. There must be thorough understanding amongst all concerned about what is on and what is not on. There should be fairness and uniformity in taking these calls. Otherwise it will lead to arbitrariness and egoistic behavior by leaders and will cause more damage.

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