Three Tips Leaders Use to Eschew a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

“Embezzlement?” you said in reference to my recent blog posting. Boy, did that word catch everybody’s attention.
You responded with such verve to my last blog posting, here’s more.  You may remember, it was about a former client who discovered a trusted employee wasn’t.
Although my client, Dr. K never was completely certain that “X” was the culprit stealing from the company, there were so many converging coincidences, we are fairly certain that is what happened.
For example, as soon as X resigned, missing inventory stopped disappearing. Bickering employees no longer argued.  Once X left, instead of disappearing inventory, the only thing missing was confusion, upheaval, and constant turmoil in the department where X worked. In any case, life was happier at Dr. K’s company once X left.
Dr. K and I spent a great deal of time before X left to discover the underlying causes of the disfunction. What is often clear in hindsight, can be clear as mud in the middle of things. I just knew that if we methodically worked to improve systems, soon enough the root of the problem would surface. Before long, X was outta there; and then it became clear, that as good as it was to improve the systems, the best thing to happen was X leaving. Frankly, I’d begun to sense some irregularities a few weeks before X left, but my proof was so circumstantial, I felt it was premature to bring it up. Especially, since X was Dr. K’s best friend and confidant at one time.
Therein lies the rub. The economic loss was small compared to the emotional toil on the company’s leader. It hurts and is painful when the one  most trusted turns out to be a worm-filled apple. Dr. K had to deal with the confusion and anger that such a situation inevitably creates.
All that being said, embezzling wasn’t the point of the post. The point was to encourage us all to think more deeply about trust.

The point was how we all have to be careful about whom we trust, and no matter what. The point was to suggest that all of us, even CEO’s  need a system of checks and balances in place-even among people we consider to be out friends. Not just for inventory, but also for the people we hang out with.

By the way, an excellent read is The Sociopath Next Door by Harvard professor Dr. Martha Stout.   Most of us think of “sociopaths” as criminal crazies. Unfortunately, most of them turn out to be people we have all known – and trusted, one out of 25 in fact in the US population. Stout gives a terrific overview and guidelines about how to identify them before they do too much harm.
Three Tips Leaders Use for Identifying the Wolf are:
1. Have a system of internal checks and balances within your company
2. Maintain an external sounding board of trusted advisors
3. Read The Sociopath Next Door
What about it? Ever run into the proverbial Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? If so, how did you handle it?