For example, if we see a parent yelling, tugging or being overpowering towards their child, we raise an eyebrow and pass judgement on that parent’s parenting skills.
But if we lose our temper with our kids, we justify it by saying, “Well, if you knew how challenging my kids are, you would understand.” Or ” I have to be like this because my kids don’t mind me.”
As managers of our organizations, we tend to make similar types of judgements. If we have an under-performing staff member, we blame their work-ethic, their poor motivation, their lack of interest, or simply say, “they just don’t get it and never will.”
When we, as managers, fall short, or make a mistake, we blame it on our underperforming employees, on patients not getting it or not understanding, or we turn the blame towards insurance companies, on being overworked or on the unrealistic expectations our bosses are putting on us.
With this in mind, I’ve started to take a different approach when employees are not meeting expectations.
1.- If you measure a fish by its ability to walk, it will be a failure. I think it was Einstein that said this; certainly not me. But the point is, everybody has their strengths, but if placed in a situation that is counter to their strengths, they will undoubtedly fail. So the question I ask myself is, have I done a disservice to the employee by placing them in a position they are not naturally good at.
2.- Instead of asking, why can’t they…. as a leader I ask myself, have I led them… There is a reason we are leaders of our practices. It is because we think differently, we see the big picture. Leaders are leaders not because of their titles, but mainly because of their character traits. Thus, asking employee to think and see the way we think and see things is often unfair. Thus, we need to first make sure we lead them to understand rather than expect them to understand.
3. – Stop assuming people should know. There is a funny story about a wife that complains to her husband that in their 25 years of marriage, he hasn’t ever told her that he loved her. The husband replies, “I told you when we got married. I’ll let you know if it changes.” Staff members need to be reminded often, not how to do their jobs, but reminded of the practice values, the practice’s purpose, the culture and why is it we do what we do. And for who we do this. We should not assume that just because we said it once, they don’t need to hear it again.
4. – Then of course there is, when all else fails. Some people are simply not a good fit. You know that. And you know who else knows that? The entire staff. Keeping an employee that doesn’t belong is also a failure of leadership. I struggle with this the most because I don’t usually have the guts to let people go. So I do what is the most comfortable thing to do for me… complain about how employee Z is just not getting it.
Complaining is easy. Confronting is uncomfortable (to most people of course. Many thrive on confrontation). But deep down we know that by not addressing the issue directly, we are failing the company, all the other employees, and the employee in question.
Next time you are facing a challenge with an employee, take a moment and reflect on how you are viewing the challenge. Ask yourself, am I blaming others, or circumstances surrounding me; am I blaming it on the person’s character traits? Am I finding all the justifications I can think of and working to hard to explain to others why it isn’t working out?
Or are you looking inward to understand if the problem is actually a leadership problem and not an employee problem?
As leaders of our practices, our default is to not see the failures of our leadership (why would we, we are “leaders”), but rather default to see the failures of our employee’s character, work ethics and motivation. Heck, this is most people defaults regardless of title. “It wasn’t my fault, there was just too much traffic.” The reality is, you didn’t plan accordingly.
Something I need to work on for sure. I challenge you today to do the same.
Thanks for reading the blog.