“The problem is you make decisions with your heart”. That is an actual statement directed at me regarding a sensitive employee matter. The inference is that when the heart is accessed in making difficult employee decisions, the correct business decision will not be made. Well, I could not disagree more and I will take the next few paragraphs to explain why.
Early in my career I had the pleasure, honor, and benefit to meet an executive who was a senior vice president and on the executive team for a multi-billion dollar company. I became friends with his family and he and I spent many hours just talking about life and business. He told me many stories about experiences he had through his career and how he always tried to do the right thing. It is from this executive, who took the time to “teach” me many valuable lessons, that I decided that I would never do anything or make a decision in business that was immoral, unethical, or illegal. Well, my Dad had a lot to do with that as well, but this executive crystallized my thinking. I still recall a powerful comment he made to me once. “Richard, it is important for you to realize that you can be a nice person and still be a success in business.”
In my opinion, doing the right thing and making decision from the heart go hand in hand. Now, before anyone believes I can’t make tough decisions when it comes to employment matters, let me walk through my philosophy. First, I believe it is important that expectations on behavior and performance are communicated clearly. No doubt can be left with what a manager or leader expects from any member of the team. This is the first ingredient to what I call the “secret sauce” for effective talent management. Clearly communicated, articulated, and understood expectations on performance and behavior.
The second ingredient is constant communication with a team member about performance and behavior against the expectations. A team member may have to be redirected to align with the expectations and there should be no hesitation from a manager or leader, even in the face of possible conflict. Helping everyone succeed should be the catalyst for ongoing communication.
The third ingredient is holding everyone accountable in meeting the expectations of performance and behavior that have been established and communicated. There are no exceptions on who is held accountable….it includes the ones we like the least and the ones we like the most. Holding others accountable should never become a beauty contest.
The fourth and final ingredient is practicing equitable, fair, and consistent consequences. Whether it is a verbal warning or a final written warning, team members must know that there are real and lasting consequences for failure to meet performance and behavior expectations that have been clearly communicated. In my career, I have terminated many team members who could not or refused to improve performance and behavior.
Making decisions with the heart when it comes to employment matters takes longer. Making decisions with the heart forces a manager or leader to actually care about others. Making decisions with the heart takes more discipline and courage.
Making decisions with the heart using the “secret sauce” is always the right thing to do. And that is worth thinking about.
Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
“My passion is helping to bring out the BEST in others”
Several years ago I was on a Boy Scout camp out with one of my sons. It was a base camp located on a large plantation and there was plenty of time to explore the property. I was walking with a couple of other parents enjoying great conversation when I came across a rock about the size and shape of a potato. I stopped, picked it up, and carried it back to the camp. I can’t explain why, but something told me to keep the rock and I put it in my car to take home. When my son and I returned home after the weekend my wife asked about the rock and why I brought it home. I told her that I really did not know, but for some reason felt led to do so. I brought the rock to my office the next Monday and put it on my credenza.
A couple of days later I received an email from my mom with a story attached. Now I have to be honest, that most of the emails of this kind I used to get from mom were quickly deleted. For some reason, I read the email and it hit me like a ton of bricks…or a rock…why I had brought the rock back from the camping trip. The story in the email is as follows:
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and God appeared to him. God told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, others, you can call them a naysayers or that negative person in your life, decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” This gave the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half an inch. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”
To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”
That story spoke to me and reminded me that no one goes through life without struggles of some sort. Very few people live their life without obstacles or barriers that get in the way of accomplishing something or keeping us from being the best we can be. And, as hard as we try to protect and prepare, our kids won’t go through life without struggles either. It is easy to have a pity party and exclaim “why is this happening to me”? or “it isn’t fair?” Yes, we can view adversity this way and become a perpetual victim, or we can recognize these bumps (sometimes mountains) in the road as opportunities to grow and become much stronger and resilient.
As parents, it is tempting to try and remove all the rocks from the paths our children will take. We justify it by saying that we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did or that maybe it will be too much for them. As hard as it is, we have to let nature take its course and understand that the struggles, difficulties, mistakes, heart aches, etc. are all part of the process that makes us stronger. The same thing applies to those who manage other people in the workforce. Our role, as parents, teachers, leaders, managers, and mentors, is to always be there with support, understanding, and a strong shoulder. Even in difficult times, those around us should know without a doubt that they are not alone.
It is not easy. We see others who seem to have success handed to them. We see others who always seem happy as if they don’t have a trouble in the world. It could be that they have pushed their share of rocks and have become much stronger to more easily overcome those events and situations that make others cave.
That rock still sits on my desk. Although I may forget about it from time to time, it only takes a glance to remember why it is there. I need the reminder often that moving forward involves three different terrains….level, downhill, and uphill.
When you get that feeling that you can’t take any more or that everything is stacked against you, try and remember that you are in no place that others have not held before. When you face your rock, you have a choice. You can take a “woe is me” attitude or you can keep pushing knowing that with every physical exertion, you get stronger. The choice is yours.
To your success,