Someone once defined integrity for me as, “Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Integrity then, is a close first cousin to ownership. If your team members take ownership and believe in the organization’s mission, vision and values; there’s no doubt that they will do what’s right even when no one is watching. Without ownership and integrity, people will go through the motions – often unconvincingly.
Last week I was about to board a plane when the gate agent suddenly re-directed the passengers to the “priority” lane for boarding. She then mumbled to me, “I better do this because my boss is watching. It’s really dumb, but it’s policy.”
Imagine if you were that woman’s boss and you had overheard what she had just said to the customer. Chances are good that you would invite her to a private conversation where you would remind her why you have such policies and clarify your expectations. You may even ask her if this is how she operates all the time – following rules only when she knows she’s being watched. I’ve had my share of these types of discussions many times throughout my leadership career. One question I would immediately ask myself is whether or not I had done a decent job of explaining the “why” behind certain policies. Then I would try to help the person see the connection between their actions and the outcome for the organization. I often found that people see their responsibilities differently when they have a clear connection to purpose.
Sure, there will always be people who are apathetic, but it’s worth the time and effort to have the discussion and make your expectations known. You don’t need to be a babysitter. So if you discover this type of behavior is just someone’s MO, maybe it’s time to free up their future. You cannot have consistently excellent service without integrity and ownership.