As I look out of my window to see blizzards drifting across the car park and wind rattling the roof, I imagine across the UK managers and leaders are trying to decide what to do in the event of bad weather. Should they send people home for their own safety and wellbeing? When only a few make it into work, should they be recognised in some way for their efforts? Should some who haven’t made it to the office, but probably could have done, be punished in some way? It’s a bit of a minefield.
Leaders in many organisations, especially larger ones or where there are HR professionals on hand, will have defined ‘bad’ weather policies to guide them in how to handle the situation for the greater good. Others may not be so fortunate and must reach their own conclusions and decisions.
Either way, it’s a complex and interesting example of the way leaders are expected to act to meet the needs of a whole range of stakeholders. In this case, that might include:
Employees: Their safety and well-being is a primary responsibility of any leader.
Customers: They need to be served and supported as far as is possible despite the bad weather.
Suppliers: They rely on the revenue from supplying you to support their own stakeholders.
Shareholders: These individuals expect the predicted return on their investment.
Emergency Services: Their lives may be put at risk when dealing with accidents and incidents.
Regulators: They may have concerns about the safety of your operations in such circumstances.
Unions/Representatives: They may be concerned about the safety and wellbeing of their members.
The list could go on and on. These are just the first ones that spring to mind.
What is critical for any leader when deciding what to do in these situations, is that you keep a sense of proportion, and balance the needs of all stakeholders appropriately.
As with any situation, if you decide to favour one stakeholder at the expense of others, it may come back to bite you. Serve the needs of your shareholders at the expense of your people and you are running the risk that they will disengage, withdraw their goodwill or even jump ship. Favour the needs of customers at the expense of staff and regulators and you might have safety issues that can cost you millions, damage your reputation and have tragic consequences for some of your people. I’m sure you get the picture.
Like so much of leadership, it’s a balancing act; weighing up the consequences and possible ramifications of the various options in order to make the right choices for the greater good.
I used to have a quote on my wall that summed this up rather well: “When in Doubt, Do the Right Thing”.
Most of us know, deep down, what the right decision is: Morally, legally, financially, strategically, tactically and operationally right. Give it sufficient thought and work out the ‘right’ thing for you and the people you serve.