Developing Leaders can be an enjoyable experience; however, this Leadership Story does not fall into that category! This Leadership Story is about a time I got completely duped by a very young supervisor! A supervisor I wanted to develop into an outstanding leader. Unfortunately it all came tumbling down around him with disastrous results.
This young new supervisor had been a supervisor the Department I had just taken over responsibility for. He had been a regular employee until a previous manager had promoted him to supervisor approximately two years prior. Now one thing I took a lot of pride in was working with and developing leaders out of newly appointed supervisors.
When I first got to know him he was very curious about everything. He would come in early and meet in my office almost every day! I would challenge him to find new ways to work with his staff. To find new ways to increase productivity! I would throw out scenarios and ask how he would handle them. We discussed various personalities that he had within his staff. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him and helping him! As far as developing leaders go, he was one I wanted to invest in.
Things were progressing very nicely for about four months. He rarely missed a time stopping in and investing time in learning. I also made continual trips to his area and visited with him and his staff. Whenever I found him he was busy working with someone side by side. Over the course of my thirty-five plus years developing leaders I saw something in him that seemed so promising. I had told senior management how much I believed in this new young supervisor. He had energy and excepted all my ideas while offering his own feedback and input.
During one of his weekend shifts he called me at home to inform me that one of his staff just through their keys at him and told him that they were either going to get the rest of the day off or they were quitting. He told me that he could not afford to let this person off so he told the staff member that they could not leave. The staff person told him that he was leaving anyway. This all seemed pretty strand for someone to make such a strong request in the middle of a shift, but their behavior was unacceptable. We talked through the entire situation and based on the information he gave me I felt as though he handled the issue correctly. However, I still had some unanswered questions.
One of the keys when developing leaders is understanding what seems normal and what is out of place. In this particular issue something didn’t seem right. The nagging question about why an employee would give their supervisor an ultimatum like that. Based on the explanation the supervisor gave something just wasn’t adding up.
The next morning I received a call at home again, but this time it was the employee that had quit! He began telling me all kinds of unbelievable things that the supervisor had been doing. They were so bizarre I could not help but discount them. He told me that the supervisor would play video games and watch movies with him and other employees for six to eight hours on the weekend shifts. When the employees would ask to go do something the supervisor would look at them and say “Who’s the Supervisor Here!” He also told me that they sat in the office and played guitars for eight hours on a different weekend.
Now I had been Developing Leaders for a long time and at no time had I ever heard of such a bizarre story. Again, it was so bizarre I couldn’t help but just discount it for this employee trying to find an excuse for walking out without notice.
However, on Monday I decided to question some of the other weekend employees in a way that would not draw attention to the situation.
When I called the first employee in I asked them if they had ever seen or heard anything unusual on the weekends. The employee almost burst out in relief when they began to substantiate the stories the other person had told me. The difference was they included even more bizarre stories like helping to put in car speakers on duty hours. Like going and scoping out good fishing spots. I was almost dumb founded.
The more employees I questioned the more all of them confirmed the original employee’s stories.
When I finally questioned the supervisor he basically confirmed all the stories with his slant on them. Almost as if he didn’t feel he had done anything wrong. I couldn’t believe it!
I had been taught a lesson of my own when it comes to Developing Leaders! A lesson that will live with me for a long time! The lesson was not that I can’t trust people! The lesson was that I need to dig deeper and learn more about those that work under me. I need to get to know them in a different way! I needed to look for signs of things that just didn’t make sense. In this particular case I would have still been duped, but it still taught me a lesson!
Good Luck and May God Bless You!