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Virtuous Companies Perform Better

Carl Robinson PhD

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Does organizational “virtuousness” pay? How do you help executives change their behavior when they have been successful despite their negative attitude? These are questions I come across often in my own professional career, with many executives struggling to establish virtuous behavior in today’s competitive corporate atmosphere. The good news is that recent studies have shown virtuous companies experience greater success and profitability than their low-hitting counterparts.

Judging by the current press, you’d believe most executives are crooks or jerks. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but the media likes to distort the picture because it primarily reports what sells: scandal. Luckily, there are a few ways for leaders to avoid scandal by understanding the impact virtue will have on their company and how encouraging behavioral changes through positive reinforcement can help when encountering a difficult executive.

Changing Scandalous Behavior

Most business executives are honest and treat people with respect, but it’s not uncommon to find a few bad apples in the bunch every now and then. Many of these “scandalous” executives have experienced success in their careers despite their negative characteristics, which only serves to further enable their behavior. Leaders today are often left wondering what they can do to salvage the situation and change the executive’s behavior.

Why would an executive change their behavior if it has worked for them for so many years? Finding a solution to this question is not going to be easy. Moving executives away from scandalous behavior and aligning them with the company’s virtues is hard work. It requires sufficient motivation and dedication on the executive’s part, as well as patience and trust in the process.

Motivating difficult executives can be accomplished through either enlightened self-interest or fear, with many leaders using the “carrot and stick” method to achieve change. Using the carrot (enlightened self-interest) and the stick (fear) to get people to change entrenched behaviors is a balancing act, and it’s important to acknowledge that you will have to use multiple carrots to motivate the executive to change.

One very powerful carrot is to provide them with information and research that shows there is a better…

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Carl Robinson PhD

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders. www.leadershipconsulting.com