A man almost lost his career and confidence in himself. My direct influence was pushing him one way or another. We may not be saving lives on the operating table, but I know we are shaping one’s worth. It takes two: Leader and the student; both have to have the courage to bounce back. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to coach a fighter. Vince would have loved him. Fortunately for both of us, he bounced back, and it's a story worth telling...
It was a few years ago when we promoted a newer hire into the first level of leadership. Jad had some past leadership experience, so the role was not all that unfamiliar. It was a tough road, as he was doing more talking than listening in the beginning. He began to find his way. Leadership training sessions were key to the early on success. There was some help from current mentors. In a year there was a promotion to the second level of leadership! In this supervisor role you are dealing with many more people concerns. It also involves greater geography, triple the staff, and greater accountability. It is a big step, even for the veteran leaders.
And the real struggles began. Peers questioned the ability. Team members had concerns with performance. It is so easy for people to be critical. Here this guy was giving it his all, and was just looking for a chance to make a difference. Concerns of things that went on 10 years ago in his life dredged up. This had nothing to do with his performance! The question actually came up about taking Jad out of his role. Ridiculous.
There is an exceptional coach, Diana, who started to work one on one with him. Weekly reviews, daily talks, difficult conversations. I mean the ones that are so hard to hear it brings tears to your eyes. This guy committed. He was upset he had not learned to control his emotions or develop confidence.
Key Learning Point #1 – Forgive. Trust was broken through this process. It was not a smooth road. As this was new for Jad, he felt compelled to discuss some of his issues with his team. And some confidential information was shared, which was meant to stay between himself and his leader. It was a mistake, yes. They are going to happen, when your student is learning. The key here is, Diana gave him an opportunity to earn it back. That is exactly what he did, and he never looked back!
What we didn’t understand was why he would get so upset. First step was to review the basic expectations of the role. It is the key foundation for being on the same page. Now this common platform was not only documented, but clarified in verbal communications.
Two approaches from here – In my time of ‘many mistakes’ I may have written this person off. 'He does not have the guts.' 'Wow I put the pressure on him, he just could not take it and resigned!' Think about that. What a negative approach. You have a man so passionate on being successful, and he gets bullied out of the role.
Better approach –Support him! If he never gave up, how could I stop supporting! It was one of the most fascinating developments I have been a part of. The pace of the progress was so slow it drove me crazy, yet I knew it was the right thing. I was a lot of orange, and now flexing my green and blue, for you true colours fans. He wanted to hear the feedback and he understood the gap. Closing the gap was the challenge. Painful to the point of tears. He was pouring his heart and soul into this job, and I knew it.
Key Learning Point #2– Understand the personal side. Everyone one has personal struggles, the question is are we vulnerable enough to expose them. Once that trust began to be developed, this allowed the personal side to come out. We now had a clear understanding on WHY he was getting emotional and how he was feeling. Only then can you be a true mentor, after understanding the work and life balance issues. It was a game changer!
Significant Emotional Event – he came to my office and shut the door. ‘I think I need to step down, I am just not right for the role.’ A prior thought may have come to my mind in the past. 'Great, now I don’t have to deal with this underperformer.’
Key Learning Point # 3 – Unconditional Support. Instead, I looked him in the eyes and told him I believed in him. As his manager, I was there to support him, and together we would be successful. What is the role of us as leaders? To develop people who can develop more people! Grow them, inspire them, and they will believe in themselves. Any goal is possible if you can envision it. Sometimes people just need to hear that. I believe in you. I support you. You have talent.
It can be a life changer, and it was that day. For both of us. As leaders, we owe this to people. Make the world a better place. Now I know you may be thinking there may be a point where it is just not the right seat on the bus, however you need to apply these key points first, before you can be sure of that. If the effort is there, and the fight to be successful in the student, then it is your duty.
Key Learning Point#4 – Be There. Not when it is convenient for yourself, instead, when they need you. When he came to see me, I was busy with another agenda. I now have the ability to stop, when a student asks to speak to me. ‘Be There.’ That means don’t answer your phone, or type an email! If I chose not to take the time, he may have just resigned, and all would have been lost. But that didn’t happen.
Just the opposite. Starting with small improvements. Situations came up, they got discussed. We would role play situations. It works! As in a sport, the more you practice, the better you become. It just develops into a memory muscle. Developing people, growing them, it just becomes what great leaders do.
The most amazing part for me was I had little to do with it. I only created the environment of trust and empowerment. Better each week, less questions, greater confidence. Jad started running meetings, coming with solutions, providing alternatives. Now he was coming for brainstorming situations, he already had his own visions. He stood taller.
I am proud to say he is now one of our most trusted leaders on the team. By his peers, team members and support groups. I am so proud of the culture we have created - openness and support. It starts with a safe environment and it starts from the top.
Never give up on your people. With the honest supportive coaching, a person with desire will be successful. They just need the right coach.
Leaders, growing people, it’s what we do. It is not only a responsibility, it is the purpose and a privilege. Better people’s lives.