A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Quit Protecting the Sacred Cow

“Funny how that cow of yours is really a lot of bull.”


I had the pleasure of having lunch with a friend today but I’ll admit, he probably wasn’t as pleased with it as I was. The discussion, which was about financial reports and processes, fired me up but probably just irritated the hell out of him. It fired me up because my friend is a smart guy…he has been hired to do what smart people should do…but yet he is spending an enormous amount of his company’s time doing glorified data entry to get two financial reports to match.

I’m but a mere HR Professional but I don’t get this; math is math.

2 + 2 = 4

$1.74 + $2.65 should always equal $4.39.

If the data is accurate in the first place, doesn’t it seem logical that the reports would match?

Apparently not, especially when you have some systems that were designed to use two decimal points and some that were designed to round up or round down, and even those systems may have different “rules” associated with doing either of those things.

WHAT?  If we’re talking about money, shouldn’t it always be the same?

Again, apparently not. Some financial person many moons ago decided that he/she wanted the data manipulated in a certain way and thus built a process/system around this desire. Years later, it is a sacred cow that everyone tiptoes around but no one tips over.

I digress…

Pasture of Sacred cows

I spent the afternoon thinking about my friend’s dilemma, and I wondered what decisions I have made in the past that unreasonably affect my team members and their work today. Goodness, I came up with a quite of few of them. sacred cowI swear these decisions made sense at the time but darnit, I think they may be illogical or inefficient today. Do you know what this means?  My staff may be “stuck” with doing things that add no value to them, my business or our customers, and all because I haven’t disciplined myself to look for and/or rid my business of its sacred cows.

Truth to Power

Have I created a work culture that empowers, if not encourages my staff to tell me when things make no sense?invalid argument I think I have created such a culture but honestly, I haven’t had a concern, complaint or a “you’re about to fall off the cliff” conversation in months. I’m positive it’s not because I have reached leadership perfection so I have to be open to the fact that it’s because they don’t want to tell me.

Why?  Why wouldn’t my staff want to tell me?

In my experience it’s either because:

  • They are afraid to;
  • They don’t believe anything will come from it;
  • They don’t want to hear my excuses; or
  • They don’t care.


FACT: I have failed as a leader if any of the above things are true.

The question is, what should I do about it? Perhaps I should start with a discussion:

  • I’ll ask them questions.
  • I’ll listen to their ideas.
  • I’ll consider alternative ways to get the job done.
  • I’ll adjust what needs to be adjusted so they can more efficiently do their work.

More importantly, I’ll say thank you. The truth is, I need help in knowing when my rules make no sense. I need my staff’s brains and their insight to know when I have gone astray. Furthermore, I need their willingness and gumption to tell me when I do.

What about you?

How many sacred cows are you protecting?



AccountabilityAppreciationChangeCommunicationsCourageEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEngagementFearHuman ResourcesLeadershipPerformance ManagementRole of HRTeamworkTruth to PowerValueWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • October 7, 2014

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