The Myth of Complexity
I remember early on in a discussion with my boss, Mr. Scott, in a staff meeting, the subject was brought up assessing our sales personnel. I mentioned an individual who I classified as someone I believed wasn’t going to make it because of his numbers. Mr. Scott asked me what was my plan for this person. I said if his numbers did not improve by the end of the month, I would release him. You see, it was common that we let people go at the end of the month.”
“How did Mr. Scott respond?”
“He inquired more, asking what I felt this person’s weaknesses were and what areas of improvement did I see that would make that employee successful. I remember thinking Mr. Scott would be impressed because I knew the answers. I could tell him this person’s weakness and needed areas of improvement. He then asked about another sales employee who had mid-level success. Once again I could reply on this person’s weaknesses and needed areas of improvement.
“Then Mr. Scott asked if his success would improve with attention in that area. I answered, ‘Absolutely.’ Mr. Scott then asked the same about the first employee who I was considering releasing. If that person were to improve in his needed areas, would he be worth keeping? Again, my answer was yes. Then Mr. Scott asked me to describe what my plan was for both. I was a little confused. Mr. Scott asked me to explain what I did previously with each employee and asked me to not only point out their weaknesses but what I did to coach and train the employee through their weaknesses.”
“And your response was?” I asked.
“I felt embarrassed. I realized that although I had mentioned weaknesses on each, I never really coached them on it, yet alone made a plan of training. I admitted as much to Mr. Scott.”
“What was his response?”
“He told me my job is more than to identify the employees’ weaknesses. I have to give them the benefit of my time. He said, ‘Only when you can answer that you’ve given an employee the benefit of your time and their weaknesses still do not improve can you let them go.’”
“How did you take that?”
“I asked Mr. Scott to clarify and coach me. It opened an area of opportunity for me. He explained that our responsibility is to all employees. As an employer and as a business, we owe it to all employees to hire, train, and maintain the best employees. With that in mind, when someone does not fit that category, we also owe it to all employees to let them go so they can go on with other opportunities. The problem lies when we fail to give them the benefit of our time.”
“Did Mr. Scott explain how that is a problem?”
“He pointed out several eye-opening areas. First, that when we don’t give someone the benefit of our time, we actually prolong the situation. This is indicative on why our terminations were more at the end of each month. Mr. Scott said we stopped being managers and became monitors. Managers will recognize the areas of weaknesses and get involved with the employee and coach them through it. A coach will be positive, yet disciplined and demanding. A monitor will focus on numbers. As a monitor, we may think we are managing by pointing out numbers or informing the employee the need for improvement and maybe even help point out their weaknesses. But if we do not coach through the process and find the cause to correct the behavior, we have not managed. Monitoring created the environment of end of the month terminations with low morale. Some employees would give up as it became so common. Personally, I don’t know how many former employees might have succeeded, but I can think of many that we failed.”
“So after your coaching, what were some of the results you witnessed?”
“First, it helped me grow. I guess you can say I was receiving the benefit of Mr. Scott’s time. I would seek Mr. Scott’s council on each employee. Then I would give that employee the benefit of my time. Mr. Scott and I would then assess progress and further strategize. By giving them the benefit of my time and by receiving the benefit of Mr. Scott’s time, I benefited. It was easy to recognize those who could change behavior and improve and those who could not. The employees would also recognize it themselves, and it would be no surprise. Before, even if an employee’s numbers were not at the level needed, many would believe they could still make it. Now we can point to the behavior and know. We can document the behavior with the employee and derive game plans and strategy…
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