18 August 2017 | Sutton & Rao emphasize that “eliminating the negative is at least as important as amplifying the positive.” The authors suggest eight solutions that leaders and teams can use to prevent and eliminate destructive beliefs and behaviors.
1. Nip It in the Bud
Criminologist George Kelling and political scientist James Q. Wilson state the “broken windows” problem: in neighborhoods where one window is broken and left unrepaired, the remaining windows will soon be broken too. The broken windows theory suggests that allowing even a little bit of bad to occur or persist is a mistake because it signals that no one is watching, no one cares, and no one will stop people from doing even worse things. The theory soon started having a big impact on crime policies.
A host of studies confirm that it is best to nip bad behavior in the bud.
Clearing the way for excellence in organizations depends on being a stickler about stamping out destructive behavior. If you look the other way or decide that some small violation isn’t worth dealing with, things can quickly degenerate.
The best bosses nip bad behavior in the bud but treat people with dignity in the process.
2. Get Rid of the Bad Apples
Most people aren’t born bad. Many employees who are prone to selfishness, nastiness, incompetence, laziness, and cheating change their ways after receiving feedback and coaching— or moving to a workplace where management or peers don’t tolerate such behavior. So we advise against assuming that bad behavior is incurable and firing or transferring destructive people at the first hint of trouble.
As the O’Reilly and Weitz study suggests, the best leaders and teams act quickly and decisively to remove destructive characters when lesser measures fail. And one of the most reliable ways to eradicate a destructive mindset is to remove the bad apples.
Bad apples aren’t just a problem that leaders and scaling teams need to tackle in the long run. Lazy, overbearing, mean-spirited, incompetent, and dour people can ruin teams and organizations that are responsible for short-term projects.
But also remember: “employees who are bad apples in one setting are sometimes good apples in another.”
3. Plumbing Before Poetry
Getting people to focus on the small, mundane, and sometimes gritty details of organizational life is an effective path for eliminating the negative.
4. Adequacy Before Excellence
The first order of business should be to drive out bad behavior.
Most customers aren’t looking for over-the-top service; they enjoy it when it happens, but what drives them away— and really hurts companies— is bad service.
5. Use the Cool Kids (and Adults) to Define and Squelch Bad Behavior
the cool people have a disproportionate impact on what others construe as bad (and good) behavior—and whether or not their less cool colleagues will take individual responsibility for stopping it when it rears its ugly head. Thus an effective way to eliminate the negative is to recruit the most admired and connected people in your organization, teach them what “bad”looks like, and encourage them to stop being perpetrators.
6. Kill the Thrill
A common and often vexing obstacle to spreading excellence is that being bad sometimes feels so good.
7. Time Shifting: From Current to Future Selves
You can sometimes break bad by getting people to think about the person they hope to be, not just the person they are now.
People who focus only on their present selves don’t think very much about how the choices they make now may prove costly to them later. They disagree with statements such as “I consider how things might be in the future, and try to influence those things with my day-to-day behavior.”
8. Focus on the Best Times, the Worst Times, and the End
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s “peak-end rule”: no matter how good or bad an experience is, or how long it lasts, judgments about it are shaped disproportionally by the best and worst moments and if it ended well or badly.