Recently, a headline caught my eye: “Know who’s not surprised by ‘Aunt Becky’s rule breaking? Every teacher.” It was referring to the college cheating scandal where several parents paid bribes to get their children into elite colleges. It’s written by a high school principal.
He says, ”Do you know who isn’t surprised by the situation? Every educator in America. This thing occurs all the time, in every school. Maybe not at the same scale, with the same amounts of cash, but bad parental behavior and entitlement are old news.
When a parent signs a reading log saying a child read for 10 minutes that night, but they really didn’t, because they were out late for a sports event or just didn’t have time, they are basically doing the same thing. They believe a rule or policy is not important or dumb or optional. Do you know who else thought the rules were dumb? Aunt Becky.”
He goes on to say that we’re all ‘Aunt Becky’ at some point. And we are. I remember picking up my daughter from pre-school once and she ran in from the playground hot and dusty. Another mom was picking up her daughter and as we passed through the kitchen, the other mom opened the refrigerator and grabbed two cartons of milk and gave one to her daughter and one to mine saying, “we pay enough tuition to this place we can have an extra carton of milk if we want.” I didn’t say anything to the mom, but I held Alise back and told her she needed to put the milk back and explained to her that if everyone took two cartons of milk, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. A small example of entitlement, but it’s still entitlement. I don’t want to imply that I never did something similar but having been a teacher before I had children, I did tend to see situations from an educator’s point of view also.
What does this example have to do with leadership? Our employees and associates are always watching, and they know who cuts corners, crosses an ethical boundary occasionally and then rationalizes that it’s not a big deal. I’ve seen people hook personal trips onto business trips and somehow the personal expenses get on their expense reimbursement form. I’ve seen people use their personal credit cards instead of their business card for business trips because they want the frequent traveler miles. And when we see examples on the news every day of executives and government officials who use their position to enrich themselves, it’s difficult to hold ourselves and others to a higher standard. But we must. Employees and associates care much more about what we do than what we say. And if we want to earn the true respect of our employees and associates, we must demonstrate we’re worthy of it day in and day out.