Susan C Foster

What If You Are Wrong?

– Posted in: Leadership

6099162[1]One of the biggest challenges a leader faces is making the right decision.  In coaching hundreds of leaders, I’ve seldom seen those who were comfortable without perfect knowledge.  They wanted facts and data—so that any decision they made would be correct.

This is a normal human trait, I believe—wanting to be right.  One area we are often not as careful with, however, is deciding when and why an employee isn’t doing a good job.

Let me tell you a true story about a leader, a branch manager, and an employee.  The branch manager came to the leader and complained about an employee.  This employee had not been working there a long time, but it was obvious he wasn’t performing well with his customers. He often made mistakes. This manager had a stressful job, and wanted to have that employee moved out of the branch to some other manager. The leader (fortunately) decided to investigate the cause of the lack of performance.  When all the facts were gathered, and after the leader discussed it with the employee, she found out a few things:  (1) Although the employee had been assigned someone to “mentor” him and show him how to operate the systems to get customer data, that mentor had been out several weeks for surgery.  No one had filled in that gap; (2) because the employee was fairly new, he struggled to learn how things were done, but he felt insecure and untrained; he was afraid to tell anyone how he felt.

After discussion, the leader and the branch manager both realized this person never had a chance—and it was their fault!

And this leader (have you guessed who that might be by now?) learned a valuable lesson about judging someone too quickly.

There was a good ending to this story.  The employee got the training he needed, and began to perform. In fact, he did so well that in a few months, the customer presented him with an award on his performance. When it came time to volunteer for a difficult assignment in another state, this employee not only volunteered but did a great job.

But if my branch manager and I had not taken the time to find out what the problem was, this story’s ending may have not been so rosy. We could have wasted valuable talent and had a disgruntled employee who never realized his potential.

One thing I really believe:  our people are the greatest resources we have in our organizations, and it’s our job as the leader to care for and grow that resource.

How are you “growing” your people? How are you ensuring your decisions about them are sound?  I’d love to hear.


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