I recently had a conversation with someone who used to work on one of my teams. She was recalling another conversation that she and I had about four years ago. A simple one, really. She had gotten herself into some attendance challenges, and had been given a final warning.
Generally, a final warning means the noted behavior was unacceptable, needed to immediately improve, or the individual’s employment would be terminated. It was my practice to meet with anyone in my part of the organization to personally tell them that my leadership team and I were still committed to their success and to solicit a commitment in kind from the individual.
Today, I am thankful for reminders that every interaction matters.
As she told it, she was very, very nervous to meet with me. She said it was like going to the principal’s office as a kid.
But, then, I surprised her.
I let her talk. I listened to her story with sympathy and compassion. Then I told her that she had a decision to make; do everything it takes to retain employment…or, not. It was really that simple. If she chose to stay, my team would do everything we could to help her be successful. If she chose to leave, we would do everything we could to support a smooth transition out.
She chose to stay.
Over time, her attendance record was once again “clean.” She went on to have four more years as a productive, pleasant team member.
As she was leaving for a new opportunity in a different direction, she wanted to let me know what a difference that one conversation made. Someone cared about her life situation. Someone had expectations of her. Someone had faith in her. Someone thought she could be successful.
There is no meaningless conversation. Each one has impact in some way. I need to remember that every day.