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Doing the Right Thing (Even When Nobody's Looking)

MajGen. John Batiste, Partner — Level Five Associates

• 2020 Vision • distribution management best practices • opinion / commentary • expert interview • management strategies • Wholesale Distribution Industry • personnel development • leadership training

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In a recent discussion I had with my friend, John Batiste, we discussed the importance of having a disciplined approach in an organization. It's what John refers to as, "doing the right thing when nobody's looking."

John is no stranger to discipline; he's a West Point graduate who served in the military for a number of years before retiring as a major general. John then took these military leadership principles to the business world where he enjoys a good deal of success.

"It's about building a culture of discipline," John explained. "When I first got to the civilian world and I used those terms, many people recoiled because they thought of a culture of discipline in a pejorative sense." John said that people expected him to be commanding and imposing control, but that wasn't what he was talking about. He told me that rather, a culture of disciple is all about people doing the right thing when no one is looking, and sticking with the more-difficult right thing to do, as opposed to taking the easier wrong route. "You don't cut corners, you do it right," John said.

Safety was a big deal in John's business because it involved handling things that could kill people if they fell over. This meant that the level of risk that was inherent in the product line could really add to the cost of business. I'm sure the workman's compensation was astronomical.

"In 2006, the worker's comp-loss ratio in the organization was 150%," John told me. We realized that something had to be done and worked on to change the culture. "Six years later, after a lot of hard work, with a lot of team members who understood and lived the values, we got that worker's comp-loss ratio down to just over 0%. The profit impact was $500,000 right to the bottom line."

"It's about treating your team members right." John explains. "We, as leaders, have an obligation to bring them to work in a safe environment and return them home in the evening. Great leaders would never ask any of their team members to do anything they wouldn't do themselves. Equally important is that leaders – of any organization at any level – have to 'walk the talk'. They need to embody the company's values 24 hours a day, both on and off the job."

As a manager, I think there's a great magnifying effect that you have on your employees. Something that's really stuck with me throughout the years was a meeting that I had with the regional manager of a major retail organization back when I was only 22 years old. As we walked through the store, the floor was immaculate except for one piece of paper on the ground which the manager stooped down to pick up and put in his pocket as we walked. That manager cared enough about these things to do something about it. This attention to detail is the kind of leadership which really instills values within an organization.

For more information about MajGen. John Batiste, visit: www.levelfiveassociates.com


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