In a move that I will never understand, the Iowa state legislature approved the sale of fireworks but left it up to individual municipalities to decide whether or not it was legal to shoot the devices. In the city where I live, it is illegal to light off fireworks, but very legal to sell them. Thus, in several parking lots throughout town, we have big tents of vendors selling the pyrotechnics that are forbidden to be (legally) used.

Of course, the vendors have no incentive to clarify the distinction to customers, and buyers assume that they are legal because they are being sold everywhere. The police have been trying to spread the word that a $250 fine awaits those who shoot them within the city, but by then the damage will have been done.

Think about whether your organization has a policy with an incongruity similar to the fireworks debacle. Does your business office preach stewardship yet deny employees opportunities to get a warehouse membership or purchase from a cheaper vendor? Does it claim to put customers first yet cut the support it gives to the call center? Or does your organization officially claim that flextime is available but shuns those who take advantage of it?

Whether through a mismatched set of laws, inconsistent policies or conflicting norms, no one benefits when there are mixed messages about whether something is appropriate or not. It’s fine to lay down the law but only if you are prepared to make everyone follow it.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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