A week back, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of my friends who used to be one of the most demanding bosses I have had the privilege of working with. While giving each other personal updates, our discussion – as it always does – turned into reminiscing about the demanding yet fun environment that we had co-created with our entire employee base.
It was a fun environment, where the Power Distance Index (“PDI”, referencing Geert Hofstede) was very low across the organization, especially in the context of an emerging Asian operation market. In spite of the cordial relationships, everyone was crystal clear about the high performance standards and focused on bringing value to all stakeholders, especially the customers.
A few of the traits that set our Company apart were accountability and professionalism. My friend and I recalled how owning up to mistakes was natural to us, so much so that very few had the opportunity to start pointing fingers. At the start of every work stream, we clarified the mission, ensured that each participant was aligned, and openly demanded results from each other. These were stark contrasts to his recent experience of requesting for a government permit, and my recent experience with a colleague who handled the selection of the company that would ship my personal belongings. In both instances, my friend and I were relegated to waiting for scraps of information despite our constant follow-up. We had no idea on when what would happen; hence were naturally frustrated, and started wondering: “Where did professionalism go?”.
Leaders role modeling the behavior, internal company competitions, monetary/non-monetary rewards, peer pressure and constant communication about work standards all help in improving professionalism. We also agree that reinforcing personal accountability is by far the most effective way to drive professional behavior. As in, knowledge of and living by to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Many times have I used this rule for myself, my teams and any other person I work with. For example, if an employee complained about the quality of HR services we were providing, the first question I asked myself and my team was, “If I was in his/her situation, would I be happy with this level of service?”.
“If I was interviewed for a promotion and never got any feedback from anyone, will my motivation level remain high?”
“If I requested for a certificate of employment and received it only after three reminders, how would I feel?”
All of us, in one way or another, are service providers. When providing services, putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes forces us to step away from the situation for a moment and allows us to objectively assess what went right and what did not. This is a powerful way for us to consider both the logical and emotional contexts, and to be guided through how to react and what to do next.
In many situations, I find myself taking a long, careful breath and eventually relenting with “She’s right to get upset with me…”. More often than not, those who think of the Golden Rule end up being convinced that, indeed, we always have opportunities for better, more professional service provision.
As business leaders, I encourage you to bring the Golden Rule to work discussions and especially so when discussing performance standards. It helps reinforce personal accountability by challenging us to meet, even exceed, our OWN expectations.
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