Do you Reward Ingenuity or Punish Bad Behavior?

This post is inspired by an incident with my 11 year old daughter.  She took an alternate bus from school into a neighborhood that was not ours, and then walked to her friend’s house.  She had the wherewithal to take her cell phone to school (despite family rules against it) and inform me where she was.  Neither her friend nor his parents were at home.  My daughter was quite a surprise to her friend’s grandmother when she arrived home.  It just so happened that grandma had picked up her grandson early from school and heading to the house.  On a normal afternoon, nobody would have gotten home until much later.

When we were having our family meeting, it was an interesting quandary for us.  Do you reward the ingenuity of my daughter being able to bypass the order and rules of school dismissal, in order to navigate a bus system other than her own and then successfully make her way to her friends house in a neighborhood she does not know? Or do you punish her for going somewhere without permission and taking her cell phone to school when she was not supposed to?  Ultimately we decided just to remind her why we have rules and what could have happened her.  We discussed trust, and how you earn it or lose it based on your behavior.  We also took away her electronics for a short time, while she worked on proving her trustworthiness.

While I was sharing this story with fellow co-workers, I realized how applicable this scenario was in business.  As a manager and leader I strive for my team to find creative solutions and push the limits.  I want my team to feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.  It makes them better employees and helps them grow personally and professionally.  This does mean you can miss the learning opportunities. It is imperative for the organization and the team member to understand the expectations, and the challenges that the deviation caused.  You can do this by acknowledging and praising the good points, and redirecting the energy and focus to learning from the conflict.