Experience is the best guide for credit union managers
There are plenty of euphemisms about swimming upstream, forcing a square peg into a round hole, spitting into the wind, wearing skinny jeans after age 40… Basically any one of them would be appropriate for one of the biggest personnel management mistakes I have made in my 40 years of being a manager. When I look back over my career, both in public service and in the private sector, I can safely say that there are two things two which I can attribute almost any success I have had. I’m a natural born politician and a pure manager. As for being a politician, I will save that for another time. When it comes to management, my friends and family will tell you that I would delegate tying my shoes if I could.
In many areas of personnel management there are often concrete identifiers that can drive a decision to terminate an employee or position. These identifiers can be financial, incident, results, or performance related. There are other situations, however, where the issue is less tangible and deals more with attitude or interactions of personnel and the executive team. Where there is a fundamental rift or issue that an employee has with their position or decisions that have been made at a higher level. Often this person is well qualified and productive so there may be a desire to find a way to keep them on or “bring them around” and back into the fold. Trying to do just that is one of the biggest management mistakes I have ever made.
In this particular instance, I opened my door to an employee that was upset about a certain personnel decision that was made by me and my executive team with the help of an independent search firm. I was well aware of how this employee felt and wanted to provide an opportunity to let the smoke clear and see if we could get back to business. I wanted to believe that I could somehow calm the situation and satisfy the individual with a vision of the future that included potential advancement. One interesting thing to note, is that in this case there was not true conflict or misunderstanding to be resolved. This was purely a case of perception and attitude, areas that many HR metrics have a hard time addressing. Not making a timely hard decision was a big mistake!
There is no shortage of resources for managers these days. It seems that everywhere you turn, certainly here in DC, you run into a management consultant, executive coach or strategic advisor. In fact a large portion of my current business is working in those areas. To this day I still partner with the same experts that I used to great success my entire career to assist with client work. One of the toughest things to advise or counsel executives on is when it is time to let go of an employee who is unhappy with management and/or decisions they have made. On the internet there is plenty of information about identifying disgruntled employees, managing disgruntled employees, firing disgruntled employees, and dealing with the fallout or possible repercussions. What there is not much information about is identifying the “moment of truth” so to speak when nothing can be done and ties must be severed.
Often in cases like this, experience is the best guide. This is where the issue become purely subjective based on management experience and business acumen. Unlike situations where the numbers clearly don’t meet the goals, an objective is not met, or a project fails, this calls for the best management decision that can be made. Sometimes emotions begin to rule and this is often where mistakes are made. When your head and your experience tells you it’s time to make the change that is when it should be done. There are ways, however of applying principles and tools to help guide what would otherwise be subjective, or gut, decisions. A few traps to run:
- Discuss and correspond with parties close to the issue as is legal and appropriate. Just like other personnel decisions it is always important to have your ducks in a row.
- Encourage a concise written explanation of the issue from the employee in questions. Of course documentation is important but with gut decisions it is also nice to ensure that everyone is on the same page and you understand their position.
- Seek counsel outside of the sphere of direct impact. This could even be board members, executive colleagues at other institutions or professional consultants.
- Take the issue out of the realm of conceptual. Document, even just for yourself, a list of people and/or business areas impacted by an individual’s attitude or issue. You would be surprised at the clarity that comes from this and how it more directly can be translated to more measurable negative impact.
Bottom line, a second chance can be a good thing. Third, fourth and fifth chances often backfire.