Things go wrong in business all the time. Mostly they are small problems and can be dealt with just by accepting them and dealing with them. But big problems, crises, are a different matter. Suddenly the future of the business is in question - and that makes dealing with the problem that much harder. But confronting problems is at heart the same no matter how big or small and no matter the venue.
One of the best demonstrations of how to confront problems the right way came just yesterday from the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, to the Australian Army. Before you do anything else, watch the video embedded below and think about the ramifications for the Australian Army, Australian society and how Morrison is facing this problem. Other military leaders can learn from his example. And so can business leaders - both on this topic but also around any serious problem.
The story essentially is that it has come to light that a group of Australian Army officers and NCOs calling themselves the 'Jedi Council' are accused of filming sexual encounters and emailing them around to other members of the Army.
Lieutenant General Morrison acknowledges the problem, its scope and every part of its ramifications for the Army. And he doesn't pull any punches. The following sentences are particularly powerful.
'I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values. And I need every one of you to support me in achieving this. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.' What does that last sentence mean? It means that letting things slide - whether that be degrading other people personally or letting slipshod business practice go unchallenged - sets the standard of acceptability in your organization. In other words, do not let unacceptable practices go unchallenged.
He goes on to say, 'that goes for all of us, but especially...those that have a leadership role.'
And then he drives the message home, 'if you're not up to it then find something else for you to do with your life.'
Obviously the situation under discussion here is more serious and for a more important organization than the typical small business. But the underlying messages are true. As are the ways to acknowledge, own, confront and deal with the problem. I am certain Lieutenant General Morrison will follow through on this message - and that;s the last step in solving the problem.
Here's a summary of the business leadership lessons you can learn from this powerful speech.
- Set strong and good standards for your business
- Expect that you and your employees will live up to those standards
- If people do not be clear and direct about the problem
- When a problem arises confront it directly, specifically and clearly
- Outline the problem
- Outline your expectations for yourself and your employees in dealing with the problem
- Make consequences of failure to live up to standards or of failure to deal with the problem clear
- Don't make excuses
- Follow through on your commitment