We’ve all heard this catch phrase in the business world used when the decision has been reached to terminate an Associate. Its kindred phrase “I was just following orders” has justified many military atrocities in world history, arguably not remotely comparable to the business world, but the similarity holds true and both statements are ripe with lack of personal accountability. Would the business world implode if every person who manages more than themselves started substituting “It’s just someone’s life” for our tried (tired?) and true “It’s just business”? Let’s explore a few action items.
I’ve often found the starting point for an Associates struggles is that most Managers and C level executives have a great deal of experience in their given industry, and have years of corrected mistakes and successes to draw solutions on a daily basis. We tend to be shocked when an Associate repeats our errors, assuming that our training department has failed or that the error we made is now so incredibly obvious that an associate couldn’t possibly make that same error.
Action item #1 is to assume errors will occur, even with the best mentoring and training programs. College and High School graduates across the country have a diploma, yet very few have a perfect 4.0. We should not assume that when they start with our company that they will then achieve perfection, but conversely look for intent as our lightning rod for the next steps to mentoring.
Mentoring should always be the main goal of each and every day, not falling into the trap that I personally fell into early in my career. I used to think that mentoring was simply being in proximity and showing my personal actions, or solving problems for an Associate and assuming they will learn as I solve. We must ask the right questions starting with the basic “What are your action items today? Let’s walk through your plan to achieve them.” This gives us the opportunity to relay our previous successes, while avoiding the mistakes we made and assigning action planning to the Associate.
Action item #2 is to allow your associates have a completely open relationship where they are not just looking for “Atta boy’s” from you, or conversely a thrashing if their plans don’t meet up to your experience. If we allow plans to be developed and executed that we must directly or indirectly coach our team reach, we will succeed by allowing them to grow and truly learn.
I have personally coached many executives who say they expect everyone to do their jobs and don’t have time to fix the struggling associate who can’t perform to the expected levels. I would challenge that thought and say that we need to make the time, and short term effort will lead to a tougher, faster, smarter, nimble and more loyal teams and will lead to sustainable high performance. This circles back to where we started this journey and many leaders giving up and terminating Associates on the assumption that the greener grass of a fresh start will gain success, but in actuality we are propagating an endless cycle of struggle and failure.
The last challenge that I extend through Action item #3 is to find your weakest team member and relentlessly lead them to success by walking them through your experience. Once the weakest team member is productive, your refined coaching tools will make leading your top performers even easier. In the absence of these simple action items above, the cycle of termination and resignations will continue, leading to hampered productivity and higher stress. Let’s break the “It’s just business” cycle and turn it into “It’s just someone’s life” and we will make a difference in that life.