Hire People with Common Sense and Good Critical Judgement

Guest post by Stan Silverman:
During a recent event to launch my book, Be
Different! The Key to Business and Career Success
, I spoke about the
importance of hiring people with common sense and good critical judgment because
at some point, you want them to violate policy when it is in the company’s best
interest to do so.
I described an experience early in my
career while serving as national sales manager for one of my company’s
operating divisions. I was informed that production of a batch of product was
found to have trace contaminants and needed to be recalled. Every day that
passed, the cost of the recall would rise as the contaminated product flowed
deeper into the distribution network. If the product was used in the production
of a customer’s product, the cost of the recall would rise exponentially and
damage the company’s reputation.
My boss, who had the authority to order
the recall and the CEO of the company were traveling and were unreachable. This
was before the days of smart phones, email and text messages. I didn’t have the
authority to order the recall, and was told by my direct reports that I would
either be celebrated or terminated for the recall decision. I ordered the
When my boss and the CEO returned from
their trip, I told them what I had done. They both celebrated my decision.
That’s when I learned that you must hire people with common sense and good
critical judgment, because someday they will need to make a decision in the
best interests of the company that violates policy or is beyond their authority
A few days after I shared this experience,
I received an email from one of the attendees, a senior leader at a bank, who
Your presentation last
Thursday evening was very impactful. You said some powerful things that
any company or leader would be smart to adopt. I think the one that was most
surprising to hear was that companies should hire people who are willing to
break the rules for the good of the company. It is so true, but no one
ever states that openly for fear people will totally ignore the controls that
have been put in place for all the right reasons. 
I remember the week when I
was filling in for my boss who was out of the country and I made a decision to
close all the bank branches in Eastern Pennsylvania on 9/11, about 15 minutes
after the second attack. I had no authority to do it, was told by many I
better not do it because I did not have the authority, but I knew I’d be wrong
in my heart to not close … [risking a possible] run on the bank if I did not do
it.  I also believed I would not have a job the next day for doing it.
The bank made a decision
about an hour later to close everywhere in the footprint.  I still had my
job … and we were the first to open the next day while most [banks] continued
to be closed for another day.  It was real important that America knew the
banks were open for business.
A company’s reputation can also be damaged when an employee makes a decision
that is not consistent with common sense and good critical judgment. In April
2018, a barista at a Starbucks in the Rittenhouse Square section of
Philadelphia exercised poor critical judgment and called the police on two
African American men who had not yet ordered anything, but were just waiting
for a friend to arrive. The two men were arrested.
promotes its cafés as a comfortable and inviting place to meet friends, hang
out, enjoy coffee, food, conversation and use its Wi-Fi network. This is the
business model that has made Starbucks successful. It is not unusual for people
to arrive and not make a purchase as they wait for their friends. This
Starbucks barista violated a core value of the Starbucks business model.
To say that the arrest of these two individuals caused an uproar, accusations
of bias and discrimination against black customers and loss of brand reputation
is an understatement. There was a call to boycott Starbucks. The company apologized
for the incident. A month later, Starbucks closed all of its 8,000 U.S.- based
cafés for racial bias training.
What is the lesson? Hire people with common sense and good
critical judgment, especially if they interface with your customers. Their
decisions will help protect your reputation.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be
Different! The Key to Business and Career Success
.” He is also a speaker,
advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership,
entrepreneurship and corporate governance. For more information please visit