Let me begin by stating that I believe in the old adage: everyone deserves a second chance. It can be a life-changing event, deepening hope, faith and self-worth. I have always believed in the good in others, and that employees deserve one redo – a mulligan, a reboot.
Remember, forgiveness is not a random act; it is a commitment that needs to be understood by both parties. The key is to establish clear expectations, when extending a second chance, and to be realistic, candid and pragmatic. When counseling the employee, utilize the second chance as a learning opportunity. Indeed, carefully consider the employee’s past performance record, and open the door wide for the employee to improve and commit to conducting frequent follow-up meetings with the employee.
The fact is, most of us have been given a second chance – by family members, friends and leaders who saw the good in us. They believed in us, cared, saw the good and truly forgave our past mistakes and are there to bring out the “best” in us. The danger we all face is seeking perfection in life and in business. But the truth is, we tend to expect perfection in others, not ourselves.
“Ring the bells that can ring, forget your perfect offering. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
True leaders assist employees in improving and do not expect perfection or set unrealistic objectives. Striving for excellence is not the same as holding others or ourselves to be perfect. Excellence is establishing and leading with high standards, and giving employees a second chance to improve and to become as good as they can be. The enlightened leader pushes us to be a better person.
Confronting an employee’s error or missed deadlines requires the ability to control one’s emotions, gaining the employees trust and not getting defensive, vengeful or fearful of the truth. Silence will not improve the situation. When performance issues linger, respect is reduced and the leader and employee can feel the negative undercurrent, which costs the organization productivity and impacts morale.
Catching the issue early, and opening the door for a second chance is key. Reflect on a mentor or leader who coached your lack of excellent performance. Their conversation was civil, courteous and supportive, which gave you cause to raise your level of performance, fostering positive change. Putting tough issues on the table can rapidly and respectfully resolve them.
The cost of not speaking up is huge.
The coaching conversation is not a confrontation, but is framed in, “What can WE do to resolve the issue and strengthen our relationship?” It is paramount to underline your positive intentions and regard for the employee. Staying mum is not the answer. The way we judge others speaks volumes about us as leaders.
When giving an associate /employee (or family member) a second chance, stick to the heart of the issue, and focus on the commitment to a long-term relationship, seek mutual accountability, always give others the benefit of the doubt. A second chance must be earned. Turning an employee around is a victory and sends a strong message to your organization. Consider the impact on your organizations and your customers, does the employee contribute to the harmony of the company?
A second chance is a sign of mercy and an investment in the employee. Both business and interpersonal relationships fail when people behave in ways that are not resonant with what they want. Clear expectations support and condone. There is a common denominator in the human experience, which is to learn from our missteps, to earn the right for a second chance, to be heard and to be understood, and to know we are valued leaders, who embrace second chances that are earned.
It is my belief that people can change and learn from their mistakes, when given a second opportunity. Being magnanimous pays off in terms of our own emotional well-being. By pushing the “start over” button, we provide the chance for greater insight and appreciation for the relationship with the employee. Reflect on an experience when you needed a second chance, and the feelings you had when given the chance to redeem yourself. Forgiveness improves our overall outlook.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, nothing can be done without hope and confidence” – Helen Keller
Second chances are the essence of true hope.