Our fearless leader, Coy Wire, asked me the other day in response to my post on servant leadership, how I handled employees that tried to take advantage of my approach to managing my business and my people in a way that puts their needs and emotions first.
Did I ever have an employee that took advantage of my “kindness”? Did I find that certain times called for an iron-fisted approach?
The answer to both questions is an emphatic “yes”.
Before I say anything, I must say that I’ve been blessed with a pretty good radar when it comes to those that aren’t being genuine with me. That can be a great sense to have and it can also have its downsides. For those that worked for me, I would tackle that issue right away. Unfortunately sometimes our “superiors” come across that way. In those cases, you just have to do the best you can. For me, it resulted in my ultimately stepping away from my position because I can’t work for someone I can’t trust.
Okay, back to Coy and his questions.
Accountability is the key when taking a servant leadership approach. My folks knew I would always hold them accountable. My kindness and patience with them was always an extension of my belief that it was the best way to run my business, but if things (tasks, attitudes, etc) started slipping, I’d tackle it head on. I’d ask questions and try to root-cause that issue until it ceased to exist.
The way I always looked at things was I have a job to do and so do those working for me. Though I can be generous in my management style, the bottom line is still the bottom line and results need to be delivered when the day comes to a close. If someone wasn’t meeting my expectations, I felt like I owed it to myself, my business and that individual to turn that behavior around. I looked at it like this: What can I do to make sure this person not only gives me their best today, but has been conditioned to give their best at whatever job they’re doing at any point in their life?
I viewed accountability and the occasional iron-fist approach as me doing those in question a favor. You can be firm with someone and let them know you’re not joking around and still demonstrate a caring attitude. It’s a fine line, but I always tried to toe it. That transparency made it possible for those working for me to trust me, know I’m going to be straight at all times and they in turn knew the expectation was the same.
Sure, I’ve fired people, but I always made sure that when that day came when I had to let someone go from my business I knew I’d done everything I could to help them. If I could say that, I could let them go with a clear conscious because that decision changed from me firing someone to them performing their way out of my business. If I do everything I can to keep you employed and you don’t hold up your end of the deal (and a boss-employee relationship is just that), I’d just shrug my shoulders and say “Oh well. I’ve done all I can do.”
Harsh, perhaps, but true. That’s life though. I always hoped in letting someone go, it would be that wake up call they needed to snap out of it. My employees always knew if they saw a coworker get let go, it was warranted because my reputation of working with someone else to solve problems preceded me.
Sparing the rod, does indeed spoil, but you only need to break out the rod when it’s truly called for. Scare tactics and intimidation are short-term solutions to a bigger problem.
CoyWire.com’s Content Manager, Daniel Cox, shares his thoughts a few times a week. Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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