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There are no problems more difficult to solve than personnel issues at work.

She grew up in the country and worked her way through nursing school. After graduation and passing the state board exams, she began her job at a large hospital. She was a natural leader and after a few years was promoted to be a supervisor. At the end of her first year as a manager, she was told she needed to complete a formal evaluation of all her employees and review it with them. Her manager handed her the appraisal forms, wished her luck and told her to be done by the end of the week.

Thankfully most of her direct reports were very good workers. At their review sessions she told them so, and then she asked each person for ways she could make this a better place to work. The most common recommendation was to fire Darlene, the nurse with the perpetually bad attitude. Darlene had rightfully earned her reputation, which resulted in her to being transferred from department to department year after year to become the next manager’s thorn in the flesh.

Now it was the new manager’s turn to face Darlene. At the appointed time, she sat down with the tenured employee and reviewed her paper work, wondering all the while how she would confront her with the truth about her negative impact on people. Since she had no management training, she decided to model the best manager she knew, her mama. She said, “Darlene, you are loyal to this hospital. You care for the patients and I appreciate that, but you are mean to the people you work with.” Darlene stared at her.

The still-wet-behind-the-ears manager shared with Darlene a few real examples of how she had acted and quoted things she had said to others. There was silence. Then Darlene said “I did not know I came across that way.” She thanked the young manager for her truthfulness. Darlene apologized and stopped acting so mean. Teamwork improved. The two became best friends and worked together for the next 20 years.

This is a true story. It was told to me by a now retired director of nursing of a major hospital about when, as she said, “I didn’t know any better.” Which is to say, she had not yet been instructed on the politically correct ways of cuddling and counseling employees nor had she reverted to ego driven threat tactics nor succumbed to the peer pressure of leading by avoidance. She had used sincere common sense to confront an adult as if they were an adult and expected that adult to act like one.

Journal Entry: What complex people situations are you facing that could benefit from a straight forward and genuine approach? How might your use of adult-only honesty to create an opening for someone to discover the answer they need to become better in their leadership and life?

He who rebukes a person will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue. – Proverbs 28: 23

Real professionals crave to be held accountable. Do them the favor. – M.A. Tate

Sometimes you have the take the hit for your team. – Joe Dumars

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