The following tools may help you move from reflection to practical action. It is a four-step approach that is designed to help you as you work through situations that challenge you to act with character and deal with a mismatch in values. It is presented below through a brief illustration.
Step 1: The Situation: A Senior Vice President, Sales recently learned that his most productive salesperson was caught for the second time in six months falsifying his expense report. This salesperson was aware of the corporate mission and the value it placed on displaying honesty in all actions, both inside and outside the organization. In fact, the virtue of honesty was firmly stressed by the V.P to the salesperson at every interaction.
Step 2: The Test or Temptation: How you are being challenged and your character tested. What virtues are involved? The challenge for this executive was that he was not meeting his agreed-upon sales targets, and this particular salesperson was one of only two salespeople who were meeting or exceeding their targets. Since the Senior V.P. was not explicit about the consequences if this salesperson did something like this again, he is tempted to rationalise his decision to keep him. Acting in full alignment with his values and the corporate mission of honesty, however, he should have fired him for dishonesty. (While virtuous leaders act with virtue, it is not always without self-reflection and self-confrontation. They are human too!)
Step 3: The Search for a Basis of Decision: The teachings and principles that form the basis for one’s spiritual life provide guidance for one’s daily life, and for actions at a time of testing. Spiritual grounding will help direct thought and align behaviour each time a difficult situation arises. Leaders can find relevant teachings to provide insight and guidance for action when faced with temptations. After reflection and review of the virtue of honesty, this executive realised that there was a consistent message – avoid double standards.
Step 4: Taking Action. The spiritual guidance found in Step 3 is implemented here. This step separates behaviour from reflection. The executive terminated this salesperson. He met with him one-on-one and again explained how his behaviour was misaligned with the virtue of honesty. The salesperson was surprised because his performance was outstanding in terms of reaching revenue targets, and he hinted that this gave him a higher degree of freedom of conduct. The Senior V.P.’s actions met the virtuous challenge and he avoided overlooking dishonest behaviour for self-interest.
Leading with virtuous character is not an automatic process. It involves exercising one’s spiritual muscle. Specifically, a close look at one’s purpose as revealed through life’s five relationship spheres is important. The virtues of character serve as anchors and guideposts for managerial leadership action during challenging times. They begin with an awareness of what one’s true values are and where they are grounded.
As some one said, ” Decisions are easy to make if you are sure of your values”
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