Reaching Out Brings It’s Own Rewards
June 08, 2012
June 08, 2012
As a member of any business team you have most likely, at one time or another, been the new kid on the block. You just transferred in to a new location, took a new job with a new company or maybe you just got promoted. It’s never easy being the newbie, especially when you are in a leadership role and have to make public decisions that aren’t necessarily the “popular” choice.
I remember taking on a new location as a site HR Director. Sure, I knew the company inside and out having been there for two years at the time and had already been successful in the role at another location but this one had the unique characteristic of being a location that was had just been bought out. We were in the process of converting it to “our” procedures and processes. As you can imagine, new ways of doing this are most often better for the company but are challenging for some people to get used to and accept.
It was my first day on the job and I was making my way through the building doing my best to introduce myself to everyone and try to get to know the team. I approached a woman, and introduced myself to Marcie. Marcie was not exactly approachable… eyes down, trying to not look in my direction, and trying to look busy. After introducing myself, she said something I’ll never forget. “Look, I really don’t buy into the whole HR thing. You’re just a tool that companies have to keep themselves out of trouble. I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave me be”.
What do you say to that? It would be very easy for anyone to walk away from that employee and never look back. Perhaps you could put them on that proverbial black list that I know many managers have in their mind but never admit to actually having. I’ll admit I was stunned and the only thing I could manage in response was. “Ok, I’ll leave you alone for now, but I don’t promise to not return.” And I left with a big smile on my face that I could only hope didn’t look too phony!
The weeks and months went by and they tend to do. I asked other members of the management team about Marcie and why she distrusted so easily. I was assured repeatedly that “Marcie just distrusts all managers” presumably from some bad experience in her past with HR and/or a manager I would assume but I never actually found out. When I would encounter Marcie in my daily travels though the building I would always greet her with a “hello” and a big smile and “Is there anything I can do for you?” The answer was always short… a quick glance up with a “no” and quick return to her job duties.
You might be thinking that Marcie was a poor performer. Nothing could actually be further from the truth. Marcie was rarely if ever absent, on time consistently and performed her job duties extremely well. From a performance standpoint, she was exceptional. She just didn’t want to have anything to do with a manager talking to her. Months of this turned into five years. I just kept smiling and asking what I could do for her with only slight variations on her response.
Eventually Marcie’s hard work paid off. She had applied for a promotion and she was being seriously considered for it. Another location was interviewing her to take on her first supervisory role. A couple of days later the HR Manager from that location called me and told me they were going to offer the position to her. Way to go Marcie! A week later, it was her last day with us at our site and her co-workers were all around her saying their goodbyes before she transferred out to her new position. I approached Marcie one last time and told her “Congratulations, you really earned this opportunity. Good Luck and we’ll sure miss you around here”. I started to walk away when Marcie asked if she could talk to me alone for a quick second. Shocked, I said sure and we stepped aside together. What Marcie said next changed my perspective on leadership forever. She said “Brian, I just wanted to let you know that you always consistent with the way you did things around here and with the way you talked to me and I do appreciate it”. And with that… she was gone. I was just left standing there, jaw hanging open, thinking to myself… FINALLY!
I’ll always remember this story because it proved to me very clearly that anyone can apply to their own role. You cannot give up on anyone on your team. Never give up, never change who you are because of who you are dealing with from one situation to the next. It might take five days or five years. You just never know when, if ever, you’ll reach someone but when you do, there is nothing more rewarding.