By BRIAN FIELKOW
In 2014, a set of professional athletic organisations were thrust into the spotlight with negative headlines.
Two NBA (National Basketball Association) owners faced pressure to sell their teams as the result of making racist statements – Donald Sterling, now former Los Angeles Clippers owner, and Bruce Levenson owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Then, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice faced a domestic abuse scandal.
The news of Rice’s assault on then girlfriend Janay Palmer (now his wife) and the NFL’s (National Football League) slow response to impose higher consequences on him until after a video surfaced can be used as a cautionary tale for business leaders, chief executive officers, executives and managers alike.
The bright lights of the professional sports world often provide lessons for business leaders everywhere. When personnel-related problems arise in business, keep the following in mind:
1. Be prepared
Are leaders ready if an unexpected crisis hits the organisation? It’s up to leaders to respond in the appropriate way.
Not only are employees looking for transparent and effective leadership during a crisis, but so are customers.
How leaders handle a situation is a direct reflection on the company’s values and their ability to continuously uphold them.
Develop your disaster plan now. When a crisis hits, you need to immediately move into execution mode.
2. Deal with the issue fully
Initially Rice received a hand slap (a two-game suspension) for his actions. It took the public release of the video to prompt a full suspension. What’s the lesson from this episode?
It’s essential to deal with an issue fully, promptly and swiftly. Not only will an employee’s negative actions damage his/her own reputation, he/she will also harm the company’s brand.
The NFL and Ravens went into damage control more. They had the chance to lead by example and stand up for victims of domestic abuse but were too slow to respond.
Rice initially received “celebrity justice”, meaning that the penalty was mild relative to the incident and what others would have received.
Does your company administer celebrity justice, allowing star performers to get away with things that a regular employee would not?
3. Hire for values
Technically, excellent employees are often difficult to find. Yet hiring cannot depend solely on whether someone can perform a particular task.
As a leader, hire for values as much as, if not more than, technical skills. Keep in mind that skills can be taught. But finding someone who upholds company values should be the determining factor whether someone is a good fit.
4. Don’t be willfully blind
Rice’s actions were captured on an elevator camera. Had this occurred off-camera, public awareness and appropriate punishment might never have ensued. When encountering adverse behaviour, treat the issue as if it were in the public eye.
And about those cameras actually they are always rolling. Employees watch and judge every decision the leader and management make. Executives are in the spotlight every day, whether they themselves know it or not.
At best, the Ravens and the NFL were willfully blind to the situation.
Therefore, when problems erupt, especially serious issues, don’t be willfully blind. Be committed to digging deeper and taking the right action no matter what the facts say.
It might be a great NFL or corporate team, but if the players or employees are misaligned with the organisation’s culture and values, what’s left? Even worse, if the culture and values condone such behaviour, the situation is a ticking bomb.
It’s just a matter of time before management will be doing damage control. This is because, like it or not, the cameras are always rolling.
Brian is also owner and president of a logistics company in Houston. Drop us a line or two in the comment box below or email us at email@example.com. For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.
Adapted for Leaderonomics.com.
Corporate culture and management advisor Brian is the author of “Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture”, a book based on his 25 years of executive leadership experience.