My first job in high school was back in the warehouse at a local mercantile where I loaded feed, hay, and propane for the good folks of Maize, Kansas. The store was run by a husband and wife who had very different styles of leadership, especially in regards to discipline and resolving conflict. One day I made a mistake on an order and the customer got home, realized the mistake, and drove an angry 35 miles back to the store to complain about our service (basically just me) and to get the right type of feed (if I remember right, I gave him cracked corn instead of whole corn. Grand scheme of things, small mistake. In the eyes of the customer, it was a big deal. He just lost an hour of his day and we might lose his business because of my mistake).
Well, Mrs. Owner, who only ever came back to the warehouse to yell at someone or to question something we were doing, came back and ripped me a new one in front of the customer and my coworkers, "How could you screw up this simple order? I could do your job better than you! What were you thinking?" She told me how stupid I was and that we’d have to “discuss” things later. I figured by “discuss” she surely meant I’d get another ear-full and then be looking for another job. Well, it turned out that she had to leave (Thank you God), and she left a note for her husband to deal with me before I left that evening.
He called me into his office just after we closed the doors and said, “Nick, I heard you messed up an order this morning. My wife was pretty upset, and it sounds like our customer was too. I was trying to think of the last time we had you in for disciplinary issues, but you’ve been here two years and I can’t remember anything but how great of an employee you have been. I’m sorry I haven’t told you how much we appreciate your hard work around here. We’ll work on communicating orders with the warehouse better when you come in tomorrow morning and make sure that doesn’t happen again. Come back tomorrow with a few ideas of how we can improve in this area, okay? Are we good?” I was shocked. I went in there expecting a pink slip, and walked out of there with an Atta-Boy!
In our leadership roles, whether that is at work or at home, we have opportunities to build confidence or to be confidence busters. In an article by Dr. Ron Lush called, “Team Building: Tools for Building Transformational Teams”, he gives us a view of the difference between the two:
Catch them doing something RIGHT
- Give sincere specific compliments
- Take interest in them as a person
- Identify and celebrate their gifts and skills
- Question their every decision
- Fail to affirm achievement
- Be (negatively) Competitive – “I can do it better”
- Lack of interest, attention
In your interactions this week, after each meeting and conversation, I want you to reflect on which box you would place yourself. Are you building confidence in those you are leading/doing life with, or are people walking away from their interactions with you, dejected and “Busted”?
Don't lose sight of the fact that, in the story I told at the beginning, I gained confidence in a disciplinary situation. I was totally in the wrong and I deserved whatever was coming my way. But it was handled in such a way that I got the message of their expectations moving forward AND I was able to walk away still feeling like I wasn’t totally worthless.
Remember that the people you work with and go home to are - PEOPLE. Living, breathing souls that you have the opportunity to add value to or to make them feel worthless after they leave your presence. So which will it be for you today? Instead of apologizing to everyone you’ve treated poorly, the next meeting you have with someone, do something in the “Confidence Builders” section and do it with sincerity. Just give it a shot.