I wanted to take a moment to write about something completely different today. We're all moving so quickly, and trying to get so much done that we can often feel like machines ... almost robotic. However, we're not. You, me, and all of the people we meet throughout our business lives are humans. This seems obvious right?
Well, let me point out a few times when we forget that.
Picture this, your star employee comes into a boardroom meeting and he or she is just not performing as they usually do. Too often, we get mad or frustrated because we're too busy for their shit. We might even tell them so, or walk away angry.
Another scenario is an employee taking time off that you didn't see coming. There's no particular vacation plans that have been discussed, their reasoning seems vague, or it's just oddly out of character. We might say things like who does he think he is, or I don't think that she is taking their job seriously enough.
The last scenario I'll give you is to imagine you're at a business lunch, and the waitress just kinda sucks at her job. No tip for her, you proclaim. On the surface, you've just taught her a lesson. However, it might not be the lesson she needs.
All of these scenarios have one common thread; you have no idea what has happened to the person before speaking with them. I have learned that quite often underperformance is due to either feeling undervalued, or because of personal problems.
So what do you do in these situations? In all scenarios, a moment to stop and ask if there's anything you can do to help them through their crappy day or week goes a long way. I've tested it out. The three scenarios I gave, are three real scenarios I was in.
Scenario 1: I hung back and asked what was up with my employee. He, of course said nothing. I told him not to insult my intelligence, and that anything he said would stay in the room. He still protested, so I just let him know I'm there if he needs me. Two-days later, he sat in my office for an hour talking about how his mom was sick, and his relationship just ended. I didn't fix his problems, but letting him vent, and offering small tidbits of advice helped. He was able to function more positively at the office.
Scenario 2: Extended, unplanned time off, while staying home can be a sign of depression. I picked up the phone, and let the employee know they were missed. I reminded the employee that she was a valuable asset to our team, and not that there's pressure to do so, but we want her back helping us steer the ship soon! She came back the next day, and thanked me at our Christmas party a few months later for the call.
Scenario 3: The waitress was having relationship troubles. I asked her why her day sucked so bad, and she gave a vague explanation. I just reminded her that everything passes with time, and let her know we wouldn't be too much of a pain for her, if she kept my Ginger Ale topped off. She laughed for the first time that day, and the service was stellar.
I'm not trying to preach. But what I'm saying, if I'm saying anything, is that you never know what happened before you got there, but you can absolutely change someone's perspective while you're with them.
More tolerance in the corporate world is therapeutic for us all.
Jay Hall - Chief Strategist