Fifteen years ago, I worked for an education business. Part of my job was to supervise all the instructors at our location. I recruited a good staff and got lots of engagement with the people I hired.
Yet, I didn't get this with people I inherited from past managers. One person in particular preceded my arrival at the company and knew lots of staff and customers. While he was friendly, he was (at best) a mediocre employee.
I attempted to give him occasional feedback when performance was particularly low – but overall he always seemed to do just enough to get by. It drove me nuts.
Finally the blessed day came when he announced he was leaving for other opportunities. While I publicly thanked him, I was happy see him go.
Everything was fine until his last day of work. During his last shift, he wasn't paying attention to customers. He wasn't helping out any colleagues. He seemed to wander around aimlessly a lot.
With an hour left to go in his shift, I finally had it. I pulled him into my office and told him exactly what I thought about his lackluster performance over the past two years. He raised his voice back at me. So, I did what any brilliant, enlightened leader would do…
I kicked him out.
Yep, just plain old told him it was my office and I was in charge and he was done. He packed his stuff and left. I am leader, hear me roar.
I can’t overemphasize what a stupid move this was…and I discovered at least four important things later on:
1) How we treat one person is how we treat everyone: After this happened, even my top performers were tentative around me for awhile. They had seen me snap at someone who hadn't gotten fair feedback. I embarrassed a colleague many of them liked. What would stop me from doing it to them?
2) We can’t make up for past mistakes: I tried to make up for two years of missed feedback in one exchange, which was impossible. If we've missed opportunities as a leader, shame on us. When we decide it’s time to give feedback, we need to start from square one.
3) Some stuff, we just need to let go: The person I kicked out probably still has a horrible view of me and the company where we worked. I should have either handled it correctly or let it go. My desire for short-term gratification hurt everyone in the end – and people only remembered my moment of anger instead of two years of patience.
4) Avoid leadership decisions in anger: Many of us know our anger cues. When anger creeps in, that’s the worst time to make decisions. Go for a walk, talk to a trusted colleague, leave early…do anything except make decisions until the intense emotions have passed.
Which of these discoveries are most important for you to apply right now? Share your thoughts in the comments field below.