It seems I’m spending more and more time in high school these days. No, not my kids’ school, the business world. Perhaps the economy has increased insecurity, doubt and lack of trust in business; perhaps adolescence’s creeping into the 30’s is why its taking longer to grow up and be professional; or perhaps we’re so politically correct, or conflict avoiding, that we are sacrificing accountability and productivity for fear of offending.
There are times I feel so “old-school” with my kids’ friends and and in the corporate world. I see behavior that wasn’t tolerated in ‘my day’ and I’d never tolerate…from my kids let alone colleagues, including the C-suite. The Harvard Business Review even ran an article “Rudeness at Work: What’s Your Story?” What the heck is going on? Are permissiveness and indulgence endemic everywhere?
Increasingly, the virtue I see that is most needed, aside from Courage, is Temperance. I love that word. It comes from Greek sophrosyne (moderation), which Cicero translated into the Latin temperantia. By the mid-14th C, it evolved from the Anglo-French temperaunce to mean “self-restraint, self-control, moderation.”[*] I think we need a heavy heavy dose of Temperance today – in any business, be it for/not-for profit, ‘social’, entrepreneurial, etc. We need to balance protecting wealth with creating wealth, efficiency with effectiveness, and yes, compassion with responsibility.
Many workplaces are enclaves of aiding and abetting immature, disrespectful, even harmful behavior. People end up spending more time working around or with these people instead of doing the jobs at hand. Physical and emotional energy is sapped; time is spent in the weeds providing unnecessary levels of detail and hand-holding because people want to be told exactly what to do instead of taking the initiative; and employees are not asked to step up their game, limiting their professional growth and burdening the entire organization culturally and productively. Trust declines, morale declines, and the company’s ability to attract and retain talent erodes.
What is the outcome? Increasing risk in delighting the customer. Plain and simple. At the end of the day, that’s what matters, because otherwise there is no business. While it may be ‘easier’ in the short term to aid and abet, it will destroy your organization in the long term. At some point, it’s very difficult to prevent this behavior from affecting your customers in some shape or form. And let’s face it, we’re not helping anyone by avoiding the issue…we’re kicking the can down the road.
So, please think about how you can apply Temperance in 2013. Apply to yourself first, your team, and your organization. As the leader, you set the tone. This may not be easy, but it is so important to create and sustain a culture that continually delights it customers…because of it’s people, it’s culture.
A special Thank You to my friend, Jess Esch, for letting me use her fabulous sketches in my posts!