Imagine this scenario:
It is a beautiful, sunny day with a cool breeze. You are walking down the street feeling on top of the world. Suddenly the person walking in front of you catches their foot and falls, scuffing their knee really bad. Which would you do?
- Help them get back on their feet, seeing to their pain and soothing their embarrassment by informing them you’ve fallen before, then tell them to keep on walking
- Inform them that they fell down, which also affected your progress, so they should get back up and get moving immediately. Also, point out if they had just been more careful none of this would have happened.
I will give you a moment to decide. Ok, time is up.
I think everyone would like to think they would do the first option. In fact, if you were the one that fell I know everyone would want the first option to happen.
Now let me change the situation. You are the senior team member tasked with a deadline that cannot slip. You just did a code review and one of the others did a bad job. They know better but it looks like they got a bit careless due to the deadline and forgot that they are professional. Now which would you do:
- Help them put quality back into focus and show them how they can get back to producing better code. Tell them we will get it done in time and even say you have made that mistake before of sacrificing quality for quantity.
- Inform them that their code is bad, which is now putting us further behind and they need to work extra to fix it as soon as possible. Also, point out that they are never to do this again and if they had only followed the coding standards this would not have been an issue.
Again, I will give you a moment to decide. Ok, time is up.
This one may seem to be shaded of gray (or grey if you are reading this across the pond); however, I submit to you that it is no different from yelling at the person that fell in the first situation.
I cannot remember one time in my life where I performed subpar that I was not aware of it, often acutely aware of it. Whether it was due to lack of resources, training, motivation or just plain lazy, if I did a bad job, I knew it. The last thing I needed was for someone to point out the fact that I did a bad job. I needed someone to encourage me, not discourage me. Does someone telling you to work harder, actually accomplish anything? If it does, then why were you not giving it your all in the first place?
It seems to be more and more frequent that people are either just interested in the short term activities or dismiss others via “they stink”.
What have you done for me lately?
This whole idea when dealing with people just does not cut it. I am all for holding people accountable and having consistent results, but we should really base our decisions on their best day, not their worst. Ok, they really screwed up; you think they are not aware of that? Of course there might be consequences, but does that also need to include discouraging them? Even if the consequences are that they need to be let go, do you really need to make them feel worse? Talk to the problems, tell them how to fix it or how to grow and encourage them, even if you have to send them out the door.
I can always tell when my wife talked with the IT Admin at her work; she has Nick Burns for an admin. Even though that is a spoof, it often is not far from the truth. Sure, we might not be that blatant or we excuse it by calling it a “rant”. However, as most of our mothers said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. As I pointed out earlier, the way you address something matters.
Take your time do it right
We are often encouraging people to take their time and do things right the first time. So why does this idea not apply to developing people? If we take our time and have some patience and grace with people that have different skill sets, maybe we can actually create a better workplace for everyone. If life really does come down to a few moments or a few decisions, then how important and how much affect can you have on someone else’s life by what you say and do? If done right, you could help shape the next superstar, if done wrong you could cause a downward spiral that ends with a thud.
I have a great amount of respect of business owners that have employees and realize that what they do affects not only employees but their families as well. My current manager told us the beginning of last year that his number one goal was to ensure everyone working then, would be still working the end of the year. Not make sure he gets a great bonus, or the company makes a lot of money. I have to respect those type of things, because people matter, in fact it is often our only true competitive advantage.
Success bases our worth on comparison with others. Excellence gauges our value by measuring us against our personal potential.
So stop competing with co-workers or putting them down, and actually work with them. In other words, be excellent to one another.