I remember thinking “Well that didn’t go very well!”
Here I was the new Dean of Students at a private K-12 school in Edison, NJ and didn’t have a clue about how to write detention notices. Of course, “Mom” wasn’t happy that I sent home a note telling her that her precious angel was getting detention for arriving late for the umpteenth time…no…she was in my office reading me the riot act. I remember feeling like I was in a daze and woefully in over my head in this new role. Kef, the Head of Upper School, had pushed me to accept this newly created administrative position in addition to my role as Director of Vocal Music. I was reluctant to accept, but I trusted Kef…he was someone I greatly looked up to. He had a Master’s Degree from a prestigious University, and although only in his mid 30’s, had already held positions at some of the more well know private schools in the North East. “Just take a breath”
he said. “If you’re open to some suggestions”
(and boy was I), “I can give you some pointers on how to defuse these situations. You’re way too emotionally involved here. Stick with the facts. Don’t use absolutes. Read these notices, sleep on them, come back and re-read the next day. Then bring them to me and I’ll give you my advice on any necessary changes. By the way, have you ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People or The Prince by Machiavelli?”
It’s been almost 20 years since I took that first management role, and yet the memories are still vivid. I look back now and laugh at how headstrong I was, and how clueless I was in dealing with people in difficult situations. Over the years I’ve taken on many management roles – in Education (both as a teacher and Administrator), as Cruise Director aboard high-end cruise lines, a “Captain” managing catering teams in hospitality, leading Sales and Marketing offices, developing and overseeing entire compliance departments, being Director of Customer Service for a major energy supplier, and in my current role with GraySquare, to name a few. The positions and situations may have varied, but the constant throughout all the different roles I’ve served in is people. A word of advice – if you cannot “win friends and influence people”, you’re basically dead in the water. That’s even more so true in difficult roles that require you to manage people.
At the end of 2018, I led a few of our future leaders in the initial session of GSQ U. Our subject matter was “The New One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard, PHD. Great read! It’s short, told in story format, and keeps the reader entertained and informed. What struck me most in this book was how much it resonated with the lessons I learned almost 2 decades ago. The book is basically broken down into 3 sections (or “secrets” as the author calls them). While I won’t get into the first Two here (1 Minute Goals & 1 Minute Praisings) I’d like to briefly talk about the 3rd secret – 1 Minute Re-Directs, as these tend to be the most difficult, yet extremely crucial conversations if you want to have success in your role as a manager and/or leader in whatever position you have (including being a parent!)
The basic rule here is that if you properly set-up expectations through goals and reinforce with praisings, then any corrective action you must engage in will go much more smoothly. Jon Levy (the character our protagonist is speaking with about the 3rd secret) best describes the need for these re-directs in this quote:
“While I don’t always like someone pointing out my mistakes, a Re-Direct can help me get back on track and achieve my goals. And that helps both me and our organization succeed.” (p 51)
The key word of course being “if”. If you don’t set up goals, how can those you lead know what they’re supposed to be aiming for? If you don’t reinforce their behavior and activity through positive reinforcement, how will they know if they’re actually doing a good job? Far too often (and sadly) too many mangers forget these first 2 crucial elements of management and fly off the handle at those who report to them when their subordinates make mistakes.
So, assuming you get secret 1 & 2 correct, how do you handle re-directs? Basically, it’s a 2-step process that ideally only takes a minute (or two). First – After clarifying the goal was clear, the manager focuses on the mistake. Key word here is mistake. People are more than their mistakes. Don’t make it emotional. By all means you can tell them how you feel about the mistake, but as the saying goes – Just the facts ma’am. Remember mistakes are not done out of spite or to injure you personally as a manager, so why are you taking them so personally? After step 1, pause for a few moments. Let it sink in.
“A quiet moment gives me time to feel concerned about my mistake and think about the impact it might have on me and the organization” – Jon (p52)
Second, focus on the person. Remind them they are better than their mistake, and that you have confidence and trust in them. Tell them you don’t expect a repeat of the mistake, and that you look forward to working with them.
That’s the frame. Restate goal and expectation. Focus on the mistake. Pause. Focus on the person.
If you can learn to do this as a manager, those you lead will go out of their way to prevent mistakes from happening, respect you as their leader, and feel proud to work for you.
I highly recommend getting the book. 103 pages that you can read in an evening that can set you up for great success in managing people no matter the size or scope of your organization!
Christopher Johnson currently serves as the Director of Compliance and Training
for GraySquare vis-à-vis his consulting firm Symbiosis Enterprises, Inc
. An original partner of the organization, his role has evolved through many phases and continues to evolve to this day. With 2 decades of experience in various management roles, he prides himself on being a critical problem solver and system developer in challenging areas of the business, so that the entire organization can flourish. He is married to a proud Colombian (Adaluz Cabezas) and they have a beautiful 11-year-old daughter (Amy Cabezas Johnson). Symbiosis is defined as “a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups”. www.symbiosisinc.com