Leadership Stories – Performance Improvement

All the Leadership Stories that I provide are intended to help you improve your Good Leadership Skills. This story is one where asking enough questions can solve problems.

I am a strong believer in that and using the below technique I trust will improve your good leadership skills.

Several years ago I was part of a senior management team that had just been hand picked to begin a new venture in a major metropolitan market.

Initially everyone on the senior management team reported directly to the Regional Vice President.

My position was the Human Resources Director. I had two Human Resources Managers and two secretarial staff that reported directly to me.

As the dust settled the Regional Vice President had the District Managers, the District Safety Manager, and me reporting directly to him.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

Early on the Regional Vice President would come into my office and complain about the District Safety and Training Manager. Most of the complaints seemed valid, and I would give him advice on how to deal with it. In a nut shell I would tell him to set clear expectations for the problems that he was experiencing with them.

Day after day he would come in and complain. Finally one day I told him why don't you just reassign her under my leadership?

Well, be careful what you say, because that is exactly what he did. He reassigned her to me. Now with an open mind I met with her and set clear expectations of what she was responsible for and what I would like her to accomplish. I set some very immediate goals as well as some medium and long term goals as well.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

I gave her clear expectations such as any reports she produced would need to be presented in a professional manner. Any data she quoted or used to justify an action would need to be available, which should also be formalized. That she needed to produce a schedule of required training events that would keep us in compliance with all the regulatory agencies, along with a copy of the lesson plans. That she needed to provide me a schedule of her safety inspections that she would be conducting, along with a copy of the inspection checklist. That on both the training and the safety inspections, I wanted a copy of the training rosters and the safety inspections once completed. I asked her for a list of any employees that had not completed their initial orientation training.

There were a number of other items. Keep in mind that these were some pretty basic tasks for the amount of salary and the title she held. The tasks above should be second nature. I had no doubt she would handle this and a ton more. She never once seemed to question my expectations.

I set up a weekly meeting with her to go over any challenges she had as well as to give me an update on where we were at and what was going on in the area of safety and training. Of course I told her that she was always welcome to call or visit me anytime. Even if she wanted to just chew the fat, or express a frustration.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

I felt very good about the direction we needed to go in.

Well week one was behind us and it was time for our first meeting since we had officially gotten together.

She showed up to the meeting and seemed frustrated. I asked her what was going on and she told me that she had left the information for our meeting at home. She apologized for this. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and told her lets go ahead and meet anyway.

I asked her to please tell me how her week went. I listened for about five minutes or so about all the problems that she had run into that prevented her from accomplishing any of the short term tasks I had asked her to complete. Two of those tasks were to present a training schedule, and a schedule of safety inspections to be conducted.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

Now keep in mind we had been in our new positions for almost four months now so this was not a case where you would still be unpacking boxes or something like that.

I asked her if she could tell me if anyone had not completed their initial orientation training. She gave me everything except a yes or a no. I finally stopped her and asked her for a clear yes or no. She gave me a no.

I asked her why?

She tried to explain that she had been too busy.

I asked her if there was anything I could do to help, but she would first have to let me know what is consuming her time.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

After listening to her ramble on it was clear that she was not organized or that she was familiar with the basics of the safety and training position. I was a little put back since she was the District Representative for those positions, i.e., she was the expert.

I quickly began to wonder how she was appointed to this position. She had been a current employee of the company in another area of the country, where she was hand picked for this particular assignment.

So I asked her some basic questions trying to be respectful. I asked her background in this area prior to being selected.

She went on to explain that she worked under another individual and that they did not get her involved in much of the things that we were asking her to do.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

So I asked specifically what did she do in her last position. It turned out that although her title was Safety Manager in her last position, her duties, were more in line with a clerks.

So quickly I pulled out her personnel file and took a look at the resume that she had submitted for the position. It didn't even come close to the description of what she said she had been doing in her last position. So I asked her which one was correct. Her resume or what she just told me.

She hesitated because she knew where this was going. She knew that she had painted herself into a corner. Either she was not telling the truth in her resume, or she was not telling me the truth in her previous statements that I just heard from her.

I explained I really need to know so we can figure this thing out. I need to know how much experience you have in order to go forward. I was very careful not to say anything about her future with us, because at that moment I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I told her that this was a critical position, and that she needed to be at the top of her game in order to get the things accomplished that needed to be.

Leadership Stories - She sunk her own ship

She began to tear up and then she asked if she could resign. I told her that she was very welcome to resign.

Now I was not proud or happy about the outcome other than I was able to quickly sort through the real issues as to why her department was failing. I didn't set out to arrive at this conclusion but, each question I asked supplied me with another piece to the puzzle as to why she was failing.

Good leadership skills require you to be able to know all the different ways to get results. One of my favorite ways is to ask questions.

She started off trying to justify why she was not getting the work done, but in the end her justification sunk her ship.

Never a pleasant moment for anyone!

Thank you for reading another one of my leadership stories and may God Bless you!

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