Sunday, January 10, 2010

...and Change Will Follow

I had to give three of my own staff warning letters after they’ve violated one of the rules set by the company. My approach was soft and humble, I started by apologizing to take disciplinary actions against them and then I also explained why this step was an important step to take from a company’s point of view.

This got me thinking about loads of other past experiences when I was supposed to make such harsh decisions, but in the end I let them get away with verbal warnings. Looking back at time, ever since I joined the company just a couple of years ago I think our situation has been improving, yet a lot of time was wasted because discipline was never a value that interested the company or at least it wasn’t to the employees.

What went wrong is very simple to understand. A company called Waltkens used to manage a tiny little cage with 5 monkeys stuck in it. They appointed a watchman with a high pressure water hose that was used to wash down any monkey that tried to climb up a ladder that had bananas hanging on top of it. This watchman used to open up the hose, splash every monkey that tried touching a banana and just to teach the other monkeys a lesson, he would attack the rest of the monkeys using the same water force till they lost all power and could barely move. This happened almost every day until the 5 monkey’s decided they won’t go for the bananas anymore.

A couple of weeks later, one stupid monkey decided to try his luck and climbed the ladder. Just before the watchman reacted, the other monkeys jumped on the stupid monkey and bashed him till he was worn out and thus a new system in the cage was created and followed for months. The watchman had no means to stay any longer since no monkey could get his arse up the ladder, so he packed up his goods and left for good. Yet the monkeys still followed the same old rule (Attack any monkey that tries to act smart on us).

After a while the cage was sold to a new company and the management tried changing this bad old habit (of monkeys attacking each other) by replacing one monkey with another new monkey every month. Even after all 5 monkeys were replaced, the same old habit still lived in this same old cage, despite the fact that the monkeys never knew why they attacked each other every time one of them tried to climb the ladder.

This story is also similar to my situation but the only difference is that they are not monkeys, they are my employees. They are not wrong too, I have been doing them wrong by blaming them for not being responsible and thought they have no discipline in themselves. I have been introducing loads of new procedures, new methods, and new standards to follow yet no one seemed to care about them. They just couldn’t get themselves to commit to the new BETTER I am trying to introduce. 

I was speaking to a friend that’s having some problems living with his girl. I told him to take it easy and not demand too many changes cause she is going through a “transformation curve”. She is going through it because of FEAR. She is scared from the future (the unknown) and would rather continue life just the way it is or retreat to her old life where everything was simple). Now you are asking her to change or be a goner but you don’t realize that there are 6 steps to change, so whatever she is going through is a positive sign.

Step 1 – DENIAL. First she’ll deny everything you say or suggest.
Step 2 – REJECTION. Then she will act frustrated and get angry.
Step 3 – SELF ACCEPTANCE. After a while she will try negotiating without admitting she is wrong.
Step 4 – DEPRESSION. Then she will accept her wrong side and fall into depression.
Step 5 – ACCEPTANCE. Then she will try to gain knowledge for self understanding and better vision.
STEP 6 – THE OUTCOME. She will see an opportunity or a better way and that’s when she will start execution to make the change successful.

And just after I explained the last step, I realized that I have led my team in the wrong way. I did not stop to see or help them pass whatever stage they were stuck in. I, myself was blinded by the stupid reasons that I have put before me and them. I put my head down, shame and guilt felt so heavy in me.

So first I am starting with me, I’m going to make a change and hope this change gets positively passed on to you.

Quote of the day:
“Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms.” Che Guevara