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Guiding Principle #1: Never Mess with Someone's Money

With three decades of experience in healthcare leadership, I have encountered a broad spectrum of leadership behaviors and strategies. Some of these approaches have proven highly effective, while others have fallen short. These varied experiences have been instrumental in shaping my understanding of leadership, leading me to identify ten guiding principles that are essential for fostering an environment of trust, engagement, and commitment. I am pleased to introduce my Leadership Guiding Principle Series, in which I will explore each of these principles in depth, discussing their significance and the lessons learned from my career.

The series begins with a principle that has been a constant in my leadership journey: Guiding Principle #1 - Never Mess with Someone's Money! This principle is not just a rule; it's the bedrock of trust and respect in any organization. At its core, this principle underscores the importance of fairness and integrity in the financial dealings between an employer and employee, and is, in fact, a fundamental element that impacts an employee's sense of security and value. An organization fosters this through:

  1. Timely and Accurate Payment: It's crucial for employers to ensure employees receive their paychecks punctually and accurately, this includes salary compensation and incentive compensation. This practice is the foundation of trust in any professional relationship.

  2. Fair Compensation: Organizations should commit to fair market wages and equitable pay practices. Regular market analyses and internal audits can help maintain fairness, not only across the industry, but perhaps more importantly, within the confines of the team and business unit.

  3. Transparency and Communication: It's important to be open about how salaries are decided and when pay structures change. Although it's not appropriate for a leader to disclose someone else's exact salary, providing clear guidelines on what factors influence salary differences helps team members trust the fairness of their own pay.

  4. Adherence to Contracts: Honoring the terms of employment contracts, particularly concerning financial benefits and compensation, is a non-negotiable aspect of leadership integrity.

  5. Equal Pay and Non-Discrimination: Fairness demands that employees in similar roles, with similar qualifications, receive equal pay, irrespective of gender, race, or other non-performance-related factors.

This tenet is not just a matter of ethical business practice but also encompasses a range of legal and cultural considerations that define the workspace in our healthcare community, The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in the United States plays a pivotal role in this context. It secures employees' rights to discuss their wages and working conditions among themselves. This aspect of the Act is crucial in promoting transparency and fairness in the workplace. By legally protecting these discussions, the NLRA helps in identifying and rectifying unfair pay practices, thus reinforcing my principle of not messing with someone's money.

The guiding principle of never messing with someone's money is more than a moral compass; it is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a healthy, respectful, and legally compliant workplace. Organizations that adhere to this principle not only foster a culture of trust and respect but also position themselves as fair and ethical employers. I have found the application of this principle to take on greater meaning when also considering my Guiding Principle #6: You Don't Know what you Don't Know. As each of us has various life demands, as a leader, controlling the finances of someone else based on personal perceptions of money management is irresponsible. Recognizing that leaders often earn more than their team members, it's vital to avoid projecting our financial perceptions onto them. For example, when an organizations process delays bonus payments, it's critical to amend the process and ensure when bonuses are scheduled for payout, they are indeed paid.

Stay tuned as we journey through these guiding principles. Whether you're a seasoned leader or aspiring to be one, this series promises insights and strategies to enhance your leadership style, grounded in values that stand the test of time.

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