The world is at a tipping point today. Leadership, technology, pop culture, all of it is changing in ways that make it hard to predict what the next quarter will bring, let alone the next two to five years.
But there are certain truths that remain important even as everything else shifts. They're basic values, and as we become more mired in the increasing complexity of an evolving world, we could all stand to take a step back. We should not only remember the life lessons that our parents, teachers and caregivers taught us, but really consider whether or not we're still applying them in our daily lives.
Here are four lessons we learned as schoolchildren--basic behavioral guidelines that apply just as much in today's work environment as they did in kindergarten:
1. Admit when you make a mistake.
Admitting when we make mistakes often gets harder the older we get and the higher we climb in our careers. In the same manner that your mother made you say out loud that you broke the lamp, we should also be upfront with others when we make mistakes.
Too often, we're afraid that mistakes make us seem inept--so we defend our actions or blame others for our own poor choices. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how you handle the mistakes that will build your credibility in the workplace.
Were you late completing a report? Admit it. Acknowledge your breech of integrity and let the person you owed the report to know that you won't let it happen again. In taking a stand for your own integrity, you also show how committed you are to your group and that you will follow through with what you say you're going to do.
2. Don't gossip.
Gossip is one of the most destructive forces in any organization. You likely remember how much it hurt when other children talked about you behind your back, or you may have been scolded for gossiping as a child.
As much as gossip was frowned upon in the schoolyard, it should be just as unacceptable in your office. Words hurt. This fact does not change, no matter how old you are.
To change this habit in your office, simply stop listening. If someone shares derogatory stories about someone else with you, stop them immediately and ask them why they're telling you this.
If it's not so that you can give that feedback to the person being gossiped about, then you tell that person that you don't want to hear it. Gossip destroys a positive and productive work environment, and if you give it no place to fester, it will die.
3. Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no."
In other words, don't lie. Don't lie to yourself or others about what you can and can't do.
Another variation on this is, "Let your 'no' defend your 'yes.'" If you commit to doing something, and then someone else asks you to do something else that will make your first commitment difficult to complete, then don't be afraid to say "no."
By saying "no" to the second task, you ensure that you can complete that first task to satisfaction. Don't let that first "yes" become a "maybe" or even a "no" because you took too much on.
4. Stand for what you know is right.
Don't let other people convince you to stand for any less than what you know is right. It's a difficult stand to make. In standing for what's right, you choose freely to step into known danger--the danger of people not liking you or even trying to tear you down because you won't support poor behavior, poor work product, or lying.
Standing for what you know is right may on occasion put you in an uncomfortable position. But in doing so, you give others the courage to do the same, and your work environment improves across the board because of it.
It's not easy to do these things--it wasn't easy as a child and it's not easy now. But in standing by these principles, you're actively generating a culture that encourages everyone to stand by their word and to stand for what's right. And it's these elements that are essential to the foundation of a peak performance culture.