Many years ago, while working in debt management, I had a young woman burst into my office and tell me that I needed to fire her. I was stunned for a second and surprised over her request, but there was no doubt that she was serious. I asked her what she had done to warrant such an action. She then proceeded to tell me the sequence of events and decisions that she had made which resulted in a financial loss being incurred that could no longer be recovered.
I looked this young woman in the eye and said in a calm voice "I can’t fire you right now as I have a meeting to attend so the earliest, I can fire you will be this afternoon.” I said this with a smile and reassurance that "everything would be ok." She smiled back and said, “you will need to fire me you know”.
"I had a young woman burst into my office and tell me that I needed to fire her."
We met later that afternoon and I had already worked through what the cost of the loss would mean to the business which was insignificant. However, I knew this young woman viewed this issue seriously, especially when she prided herself on her efforts and results. I asked her again to explain what had happened, what lessons she had learned from the experience, and what she would do differently next time if a similar situation arose?
As we both spoke and listened to each other, we were able to maximise the learning from this experience. I reassured her that she had used a reliable decision-making process but there were some situations, especially when working with debt, that were not going to work out as expected.
In the end, this young woman was extremely relieved and grateful, especially when I told her that I was not going to fire her, because I believed that this experience would refine her debt management skills. I was right, this young woman turned out to be one of the best performing and hard-working employees that I ever had.
"As we both spoke and listened to each other, we were able to maximise the learning from this experience."
As I reflect on this experience, I can't help but admire how this young woman took complete ownership of her decisions, acted with courage and honesty, and became a better person from her experience.
Throughout my years as a leader within business and within the community, I have learned that when leaders lead with kindness, courage and strength, we in turn empower our staff to do the same. In other words, our example gives other's permission to do the same. These attributes of kindness, courage and strength are especially important when you are called upon to make difficult decisions that impact others.
Some Ways That Leaders Can Demonstrate Kindness, Courage and Strength:
Take full accountability for the consequences of your decisions.
Lead with your strength of character.
Be humble enough to admit that you have made a mistake.
Remember nobody is perfect.
Work hard to right any wrong caused by your decisions.
View good and not so good decisions as learning opportunities.
Make a commitment to do better and move forward.
When your staff see these behaviours in you, you will empower them to:
Try new things.
Take accountability and learn from their mistakes.
Face difficult moments with courage.
Commit to be better and not repeat the same mistakes,
and most importantly be humble and kind.
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