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Are You a Tiger?

Once upon a time, when there was honor among soldiers, prisoners of war were duty-bound to make every effort to escape. In fact, attempting escape was part of what many considered the noble game of war, rather than a punishable wartime act.

In his book, A Prisoner's Duty, Robert C. Doyle describes four different escaper personalities. Prisoners who resist captivity at all costs, called "tigers" in the Korean War, start looking for ways to escape immediately after their capture. Others seize opportunities that present themselves, gambling on a spur-of-the-moment break. Some need the comfort found in forming partnerships and planning joint escapes. Then there are those Doyle calls the "Great Escapers" who organize groups of prisoners and mastermind mass escapes.

Unassertive prisoners usually need provocation in order to attempt an escape, like experiencing or witnessing cruel acts by their captors. On the other hand, "tigers" find inspiration in their sense of duty. By the same token, in business, some leaders respond to assigned challenges, while those who resemble tiger escapees look for their own ways of fulfilling their organization’s mission.

Imagine that your company's mission statement says protecting the environment is a core value. In the past three months, you've repeatedly suggested production improvements to your immediate supervisor that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Although acknowledging the benefit of the changes, your manager has failed to act on your suggestions or make your ideas known to the CEO. You wonder if the manager still shares the organization's commitment to the environment, and worry increasingly about unnecessary harmful emissions continuing to occur each day that your suggestions go unheard.

What actions should you take? Should you take advantage of the CEO's open-door policy (he publicly and repeatedly says that his door is "always open") and present your ideas directly, in person? Or should you consider the open-door speech just more insincere CEO rhetoric, and continue making your case to your supervisor? Perhaps you should put your ideas in a memo to your boss and copy the CEO. Or should you wait for a chance meeting with the CEO to mention your ideas informally?

Each choice has risks. How can you make the right decision?

Use your organization's to answer those questions. Imagine the message you will send your employees by taking the riskier road. Remember, many employees were attracted to the organization because of its focus on the environment. That alignment process persists after employees come on board, as they continue to observe and interpret their leaders' behavior. They look for constant affirmation that the leaders' stated values are in alignment with the organization's, and thus, their own. By choosing to take a risk, you will demonstrate your conviction to environmental protection, and your commitment to the organization's mission. And your employees will notice your integrity.
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