CEO Insider

Why Decency Matters in the C-Suite

As mentioned in an earlier article, being a decent person while leading others is all about treating people in ways that you would want to be treated should the roles be reversed. If you adopt the Golden Rule principle, you get:

  • Greater Engagement: People want to help leaders that demonstrate appreciation for the worker behind the work. Show them respect and appreciation and your team will become more fully engaged with the work at hand.
  • Broader Reach: Engagement goes a long way in getting things done. People are more inclined to go the extra mile when that their hard work is recognized and valued.
  • Enhanced Immediacy: Your team will work to get things done when they share a common goal and are included in the decision-making process. Be sure to leverage greater engagement by providing a vivid and compelling goal, while involving your people in determining how best to get the job done.
  • Added Expediency: Remove the need to be guarded your team members are expressing thoughts and opinions, and you will soon establish virtual short-hand that enable quicker communication turnaround among you and your people.
  • Better Results: All of this adds up to improved and more dependable business outcomes. People just do better when they feel like that part of something bigger than themselves. 

Don’t buy it? Consider the results achieved by leaders known for their decency:

  • CEO Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn has won the hearts and minds of his people by promoting compassion at work. His Compassion Project is a national initiative to provide compassion education to elementary school students across the US.
  • David Taylor, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer at Procter & Gamble promotes the notion that “None of Us is as Smart as All of Us”  at the P&G. It connotes inclusion, staff engagement and teamwork.
  • Ajay Banga, president and CEO of Mastercard, coined the phrase “Decency Quotient” as a way to encapsulate the idea of treating people the way you want to be treated. Banga has increased Mastercard’s stock price more than 13-fold since becoming CEO in July 2010.

I could on. However, these leaders illustrate the point that better results are achieved through leading with graciousness and civility.

If you want to be a better leader, here are 5 important guidelines worth your consideration:

  1. Be the Living Example of Respect: Respect is returned in kind. If you are respectful to those whom you lead, they will be respectful, not only to you, but, to one another. Your example is important in setting the foundation for a more decent work environment.
  2. Build a “No Spin” Zone: Encourage your team to speak their mind and to challenge one another. That’s how you get to the best ideas. Push back on “spin” and push your people to keep it real. Communication transparency builds espirit de corps and enhances trust building.
  3. Offer Ideas, Not Criticisms: Criticisms are easy! Just pick a point of weakness in someone’s suggestion and overstate its importance. It’s a simple formula. A much more positive tack is to offer ideas that build upon someone’s idea or suggest an alternative concept that could be a better solution to the challenge that your team is wrestling with.
  4. “Table” Toss-Ups: In those instances when team consensus is required, instead of hammering your team for not getting there, table the topic and decide on a time to revisit the issue. This enables everyone to ruminate on the alternatives discussed and come back to the subject with fresh perspective and renewed energy.
  5. Make the Call: Of course, when time is of the essence, you must “make the call.” Your team still needs you to lead. Decisiveness is a quality that leads to followership. If you practice decency along the way, your people will be compelled to follow your lead – for you treated them with respect, provided opportunities for them to be heard and operated with dignity.

To close, decency matters not just, because it is the right thing to do. Rather, it delivers business results that are difficult to attain otherwise. By adopting and practicing the guidelines offered here, you create a less contentious and more appealing work environment – one where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and play a role in your company’s success.

James M. Kerr
James M. Kerr, founder at Indispensable Consulting, is a long-time management consultant, vision maker and leadership coach. For nearly 30 years, he has helped his clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed. His latest book, INDISPENSABLE: How to Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without, is his 6th business title. Kerr is an expert in leadership, strategy, organizational design and cultural transformation. James M. Kerr is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
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