For this blog, I offer a simple leadership insight about handling a team member returning from a negative situation. I offer an insight from “The Prodigal Son” and will include one situation how I handled it years ago with one team member.
First let me reflect the conclusion of The Prodigal Son. The reader may already know that in the story from Hebrew antiquity, a man’s son came and asked his dad for his inheritance. The story illustrated how the son went out and lived it up and spent all of the money. He became poor and finally realized he would be better off as a servant to his father and he needed to go home and volunteer to be a servant only. I want to focus on the conclusion.
You remember that when his father saw him on the horizon, he pulled up his robe to be able to run through the town to his son. Well, wealthy people in that time period never did that because it was belittling. The father was humiliating himself when did this running through the town. He hugged and loved on his son to see him back.
The son was overly apologetic and asked for forgiveness and told his father he was only worthy to be a servant/slave and not even a part of the family anymore. The father did 3 things that I want to highlight:
1. First, the father told a servant “Go bring out the best Robe and put it on him”. This was the best robe that belonged to the Patriarch of the family. They would also wash and cleanse him before putting it on him. The father desired that the son felt cleansed.
2 Second, he said “Go get the Ring and put it on his finger”. This was the ring that gave the power to the wearer to make decisions for the family…to “sign contracts as it were”.
3. Third, he said “Go get the sandals and put them on his feet”. In that day, the family members were the only one’s who wore the sandals.
The son had behaved badly and disrespectfully but the dad not only forgave him, but literally brought him back into the family. He gave him family life again. Let me offer a simple example from my journey.
Around 1989, I was the Site Manager & Contract Rep for our Department of Defense Operation at Griffiss AFB. One team member who was also a friend but was not and never had been a military pilot began wearing Air Force pilot wings on his jacket and it literally ticked the team members off. In anger one member said he was about to rip it off his jacket. I not only told them to be professional in this but also said that it is my responsibility not yours.
One day, when we were deployed, I called him and deliberately met him in his room so that he would feel a degree of comfort in his motel room. I sat down and started with “The nature of this right now is a disciplinary context”. As we discussed it, I shared with him the struggles of what people go through to wear the wings and told him how it was killing the synergy in the team. Well, after a timely talk, he agreed to take them off.
We flew back to our home base the next day and as I was in my manager’s office he came in and asked to have a moment. I said sure and he walked in and closed the door. He looked at me and he said he appreciated our talk, and he knew that was not easy but he asked, “Is there any chance that it does not go to headquarters?” I simply told him that “No one outside of our team here knows anything about it and I just want it fixed!” He committed to fix it and I saw evidence over the next few weeks of his change in interaction and the team’s positive change in how they interacted with him. Synergy was back.
The key is this, I not only fixed the problem but I did so in a way that he could still feel as part of the team…..the “Family” as it were. I watched for the evidence and both sides facilitated the return of synergy.
When it comes to having to discipline a team member. How must you get the change made but do it in a way so that the person still feels like they are part of the team?
- Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC