Management guru Peter Drucker observed that laws passed in response to a single instance of bad behavior are bad laws.  These laws punish innocent folks in an attempt to prevent a problem caused by one wrongdoer.  So, a child can’t even be carried on the mother’s lap in a taxi, but there are no seat belts on school buses.  What?  The train or the passengers aren’t safer because the conductor on Amtrak is banned from using his cell phone.  Such a rule shouldn’t have even been necessary.

We can’t create laws for manners and you can’t enforce judgment.  I see people behind the wheel every day, texting or women applying makeup.  Aren’t there laws against that in most places?  However, if you tried to enforce those laws, traffic would come to a standstill.  We hope that people would use good judgment.

In businesses, you have to hire, cultivate, and encourage people who use good judgment.  Even in the military, some great victories have happened because good judgment overcame blind obedience.  I remember from history class that General Grant should have retreated after the battle at Shiloh.  Instead, he relocated south and won the war.  I also remember from an old WWII movie, that when General McAuliffe was asked by the enemy to surrender, he said, “Nuts!”

I advise clients to hire people with natural enthusiasm and then teach them how to perform their job, because you can’t teach enthusiasm.  Seek those with discernment, because you can’t teach that either.

I travel often and encounter staff that is trained to say, robot-like, “It’s my pleasure, Have a nice day, or Bon-appetite”.  Some of them say it with such indifference and lack of enthusiasm, that I’d rather they say, “Don’t get the fish special, it’s no good!”  Now that’s discernment and helpful.

You want people who can objectively evaluate circumstances, determine the risk vs. reward and act on reasoned decisions.  I always admire people who can say, ‘I don’t know’, without damaging their self-esteem, and who can also say, ‘That’s not right’, without damaging a relationship.  You’re better off avoiding hiring those with bad judgment, or detecting it before their 90th day. See my article “Hire Too Fast, Fire Too Slow,

It probably isn’t helpful for the government to add laws governing behavior, but it will be helpful for you and your organization if you use judgment about the people with whom you’ve chosen to trust with the investment you’ve made in your business.

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