By Dan Warren

Niccolo Machiavelli was a 15th century Italian Statesman whose reputation of cunning, amoral, and opportunistic political strategies were recorded in a series of his works. I consider many of his political practices ruthless and unconscionable. However, I also find thought provoking concepts among some of his precepts that could potentially help a Manager develop into a more effective leader.

“regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no longer a remedy.”

Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince)

I relate the above quote to Operations Management, whereas minor behavioral infractions (like sniffles to a cold) are easily corrected, if addressed immediately. However, if ignored as “no big deal” or altogether go unnoticed; these symptoms are allowed to manifest into obvious performance problems that are often contagious to the entire staff.

Example: If a Manager allows an employee to continuously arrive late to their shift, their tardiness will most likely increase and even spread to other employees. An astute Manager will address and rectify this bad habit at its onset. An inexperienced or unskilled Manager will allow the problem to snowball to such an extent that the entire staff is aware of the situation and negatively affected. Where a few timely words of direction could have sufficed, now more extreme measures are required and could possibly even result in termination.

It’s better to “strike while the iron is hot” concerning employee development than be trapped in a new hire “revolving door”.

Many behavioral problems are simply training issues and with timely developmental intervention a weak link can evolve into a valued team member.

As Dr. John always says… Behavior is learned.

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