When you make a mistake, admit it.
Joyce, the packaging and shipping manager of a sawmill in northwestern Washington reported a fellow senior manager for inappropriate comments and sexual advances. After a short investigation that found her claims of his inappropriate behavior to be easily substantiated, the HR department provided a little counseling for the maintenance manager who was the perpetrator of the unacceptable behavior. Along with the counseling, the HR manager administered a rather perfunctory disciplinary warning. After the investigation was completed and the warning issued, the Human Resources manager came back to Joyce and said, "Don't worry, we won't hold this against you." Can you imagine how disappointed, let down and betrayed Joyce felt? If respect is required for teamwork and trust is essential to gain the advantage of teamwork, it looks like this group was stuck.
There is good news; a few months later, both the HR manager and the maintenance manager of this plant were relieved of their positions. They are gone and Joyce is now head of Human Resources, and doing, from all appearances, a wonderful job. Don't you love a story with a happy ending?!
This maintenance manager was a poor hire, a bad fit, an incapable person. His incompetence and lack of integrity were apparent to most everyone on the site accept the plant manager who had hired him. Sometimes it can be apparent to everyone from top to bottom that a bad hire was made. Everyone can see that it was a bad decision.
As I watched this scenario play out, it was one of the most dramatic examples of a blind spot I have ever seen. So what can
we learn from this story? We all do the best we can with the information we have to make good decisions. When the solution is implemented, there are natural outcomes. One of the most important decisions we ever make is hiring a key staff member. Of course you thought they were a good fit, the best person for the job, when you made the hire. If you are not getting the performance you were expecting, if standards are violated, integrity compromised, move in quickly – your reputation is at stake. If you don't take corrective action quickly, your team will start to mistrust you. Listen, observe, and get the facts. If you don't see the performance you expected when you made the hire, counsel or correct. If you still don't get the performance you were promised and had the right to expect, exercise the courage to make the tough choice. Don't kid yourself, and do it fast. Your decisions and actions affect many people, many lives. We keep people on because we 'owe it to them', 'they deserve a chance', 'no one's perfect', etc. This is all true, and it is true of dozens of people who are suffering because some managers don't have the courage to admit "I made a mistake". The Leadership Principles that are in play here are Leadership Principle #1 – Lead From High Ideals, and Leadership Principle #11 – When You Blow It, Show It.