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Friday, 07 July 2017 03:20

Getting Growth from Giving Grace

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You're here because you are looking for ways to help your business grow. Making that happen, even when it's difficult, is what this story is about.

Let's start with the problem. When Paula took a new management assignment at IBM, she found she had an employee who hadn't been performing for a long time. The direct manager, Bethanne, had been told not to take action because "We are all family. We help the weak ones."

You've seen it before. It seemed as though a manager was choosing to be liked instead of making a hard decision. When you want your people to grow, this is a terrible example to set; it festers in the organization. Paula wanted growth instead. Which of us would not? This posting is about her plan to move from disease to healthy growth. It is a great example.

This solution for growth comes from:
— A key starting point
— Engaging with people but not doing the work
— Giving grace

1. The Starting Point
You probably know at least one manager who was effectively fired by her own people. It's what happens when the employees stop respecting their manager. One of the fastest ways to engender resentment is to try to please everyone. As leaders, we sometimes define ourselves by how others see us. However, if you look at the successful managers and executives throughout these postings, you'll see individuals who define themselves from their core and their values. The executives who promote sustainable growth are the ones who define themselves from what they know is right. They don't define themselves from an external standard.

These leaders start with their own sense of what is right, and they hold tightly to that internal key. They look at their core values and what they stand for. That drives their decisions. Often, not always, it drives the social norm in that business. It is always key to successful growth. Paula was strong enough and aware enough to start from what she knew in her core was the right way to act and not react.

2. Engaging
The choice to shelter employees has never felt right for Paula. It hurts the business and it hurts the employees. Sheltering is usually a reaction based on fear, and you stifle growth when you let fear guide your choices. We and our businesses don't grow from fear; we grow from stretching to fulfill our potential. We don't grow from protecting; we grow from expanding our current abilities.

We grow when we act, not react.

When you choose to help your team members while making your targets, you may feel your role changing. You will actively:

Structure meaningful problems for them to solve Engage with them as they solve these themselves Get the heck out of the way as they own the issue and learn

Growth happens when you are there, engaged, and managing the growth and not the activity.

Engaging with employees is not protecting them. Engaging is choosing the challenge they will face and then choosing to guide the learning and growth. It is acting to stay very involved the whole way but not doing the work for the team.

Paula wanted to give this employee a full chance to make things work. Bethanne "…did that, but after another 90 days we just knew that he could not do the work." Instead of protecting Bethanne and the team member, Paula decided on two strategies. The first was to make the change easier for Bethanne to address herself. The other was to structure this to become a learning experience for Bethanne.

"Having to deal with the bureaucracy and political burden of having to move somebody out of the business—that was not new. Firing someone in a Fortune 100 company where poor performers do not get moved out of the business—that was the hard work."

Paula chose to get and stay engaged on this but clearly not to do the work for Bethanne. She could have done the task, and done it faster, but instead she asked Bethanne to take each step while Paula stayed involved.

"Bethanne had to take reach out and then use a director-level Human Resources executive. From the HR advisor she got the technical information such as ‘this the process, these are the steps, this is the level of detail you will need to provide." Paula could have supplied that but Paula chose a different role: "From me she got the encouragement. I told her that this is the right thing to do. I provided the grace to do this."

3. Giving Grace to Get Growth
What does Paula mean by "providing grace?" This is how she explains it: "I recognized that this was going to be a demanding activity for Bethanne. It had to be executed excellently"—and with real sensitivity. For Bethanne to do this and to have "room" to grow, Bethanne needed more space from her everyday urgencies. That is the "grace" that Paula wanted to give.

Instead of saying something like "This is your job, and so is all the rest, get it all done" Paula looked at the best way to help Bethanne do this right. "There were some assignments that I would have had go to her. I didn't." Bethanne knew that Paula was involved, and was investing in her but never doing the work for her. Bethanne felt supported but also knew that she had the responsibility to get this issue right.

Paula made the decision to put Bethanne's development first. She gave Bethanne fewer urgencies while holding Bethanne to the challenge. Bethanne acted in the way that Paula hoped. "She responded to that by doing a complete job."

It feels like a luxury to give Bethanne time to think this all through, to work out the details. That meant a conscious decision to reduce her workload in an environment where workloads were increasing. That decision happened because Bethanne's development "…became a more important priority."

There is self-interest here. "It is important to me as her manager…she becomes more valuable to me. It is important to Bethanne because important skills are expanded, it is important to the corporation because they have one more skilled manager." No matter whether your team is small or large, having a skilled manager is going to be an advantage. You don't make or forge this skill; you grow it. You owe it first to yourself and then to your business and team to grow good managers. "Giving grace" is part of nourishing growth and growing your business.

Fostering Growth
Bethanne had a much better chance of success if she could have the grace and time to do this well. Paula's task, as she assigned it to herself, was to grow the time and offer the grace for Bethanne.

Did Paula challenge Bethanne? The answer is yes, giving grace includes giving a challenge to stretch to grow.

Engaging and giving grace are about being very present, but not doing their work. It is about knowing how to provide grace for the right priorities. And then doing so.

The truth is that when we work from our core, not from input of those around us, we will find that we can select the right priorities. Do you make growing people one of those important contributions to your business? Paula made that choice here. "Investing in her was the right thing to do. She was a good manager on the verge of becoming a great manager. What more important managerial job do I have? That is the top of the game for me."

Grace starts with working from your internal strength and values. The bad news is that you can't rely on anyone else to get it. The good news is that you don't need to rely on anyone else, and your team members don't need to rely on you. You can let them supply their own strength if you can give them the grace, sense of values, and engagement to do so. Grace is a gift that you can always give at the right time. To give someone room to grow when it really matters, to listen, to support without interfering or judging, is to do immense good for your business.

The principle is much as we said earlier: Progress is a changeless law. Individuals grow and you can't control that. But you can support it, assist it, and gain by it. Holding to your core value, engaging with your team, and giving grace for growth and action is a way to turn a problem into growth for your organization.


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Peter Meyer

Owner/Founder of TMG

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