This week someone drove a truck into the back of my car. What was once a perfect piece of German design and engineering is no more. Although I am told by the garage that they can make it ‘as good as new’ I know that it never will be. This got me thinking about coping with imperfection in general and in employees in particular.
When someone joins the team they are always perfect until they inevitably slip up. It can be an extremely minor thing; possibly missing a non urgent milestone or sending an email to the wrong person. Even if you are completely unaware of their error, you can be sure that others will be very quick to point it out. “You’ll never guess what the new guy’s just gone and done?”
Even the best football managers sometimes stick with what might at first appear to be very bad signings, keeping the player on the pitch long after many others would have dropped them. Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Fergusson is a good example of this technique. If he believes in someone he gives them plenty of room for error and somehow manages to reassure their team mates to support them through what can be a very long settling in period.
Evolution has taught us to make decisions about others very quickly and I, for one, know that sometimes I can be too quick at drawing conclusions. I put this bad habit partly down to my time as a crisis interim manager when it was not unusual to be given as little as three months to restructure a company. Reducing a workforce by half, or more, in such a short timeframe forces you to weigh the end result over the short term risk of not making the right choice every time.
However, with experience and a little more time, focusing on an under performing employee's strong points and nurturing their confidence level can deliver surprising results. The satisfaction of seeing a great piece of work from someone that was previously almost at the point of being written off is proof enough of the worth of the invested effort.
In Western Europe, human resources are the most precious commodity of any business. Winning companies are often those that find creative ways of ensuring that every one of their employees are focused on activities that suit them best. This week nearly saw the end of the Cadbury era. Cadbury is a giant of a successful company with its roots in Quaker philosophy and that of ‘finding something of good in everyone’.
Perhaps it is a worthwhile exercise to make a mental list of those that you have written off and revaluate what hidden strengths and talents might be found within them?
Have a good week,