Keeping your ethics

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As an employee (or job seeker), the ideal match needs to be a combination of fit and opportunity. If you find yourself in a leadership position within an organization, that match is even more critical as you are the face of the company, policy, expectations, and values. How you act can become the dinner conversation of your employees.

I found myself in a management position years ago. I was hired to lead teams with a collaborative style and utilize my servant leadership in a ‘pyramid up’ (leader supports the employees) fashion. I had a knack for cross department collaboration and seeking team input when rolling out initiatives. It was a good fit at the time and pay was decent so both fit and opportunity were there.

After a few years there was turnover in upper management and a new set of ‘leadership values’ was rolled out to the rest of the management team. Gone were the team and collaborative categories, and were replaced with more emphasis on production and technical focus. It was a challenge for me to adjust to this new group of managers and way of doing things. I really tried, but found I was in conflict with my own leadership principles. The way we approached managing teams felt less connected and authentic. I struggled in this environment. This was a different way of managing people and it was not congruent with my leadership strengths.

I found myself drained of energy, depressed, and I struggled to do a good job. The change in values meant the fit was no longer there. I had to start looking for something new or buck up and adapt. I chose the latter, but it was a mistake. You really can’t buck up and plow through when you’re conflicted. I learned a valuable lesson, the hard way, as I tried and failed.

Ultimately I decided to leave the company after making a run at the new system. In retrospect it was good that I left. Twenty-five percent of the managers were turned over within a year. I likely would have been in that bunch had I stayed. It didn’t really hit home until years later when I was approached by one of my former team members who delivered an unexpected message at a local store. He thanked me for not being ‘one of those’ managers and said that a peer of his wanted me to know the same thing. He said, “If you ever see Mueller again, tell him thanks for doing what he thought was right.” I hadn’t heard from this team in years and didn’t think they would really remember me (since this group probably had eight more managers since I departed).

That’s when it hit me. I had made a memorable impact. That adherence to how I thought I should lead made all the difference in my results and team. The takeaways:

  1. You can only speculate in the moment how you affect the world around you.
  2. When you are out of line with your beliefs/ethics you will not be effective.
  3. The way to stand out is to add all of you into what you do.

Have you had any examples of finding out your impact? Please share your stories, I’d love to start some discussion around this!

About Jason Mueller

Jason is a career and development coach, residing in south east Wisconsin. He has earned his Business Coaching certificate from UW-Milwaukee and worked with clients in business and career coaching at the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education. Jason says he does everything with empathy, compassion and the client's best interests in mind. He’s found that he can do anything well by being genuine, useful, present and vulnerable. With a degree in religion, years in theater, experience in business, and a dry sense of humor Jason’s unconventional wisdom helps him connect the dots. You can find his website here or connect with him on Twitter and G+.

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