Punish or Pamper?

On CBS Morning there was a piece titled Punish or Pamper. The piece was about how to maximize productivity in the workplace. Why is this an either/or issue? Is managing a team really just about punish or pamper? I don’t think so…

There are times when employees need and deserve to be pampered and conversely there are times when it is appropriate to “punish”. I’m not a fan of the word punish. The connotation is too negative, too divisive. Punishment is equal to “going to jail”, the adult version of “time out”. In business we shouldn’t punish an employee, we should coach them or in cases where coaching doesn’t work help them redirect their career.

The primary job of a manager is to create a work environment that maximizes the performance of every employee. To get maximum performance requires the manager to understand what motivates each of the staff, understand what their individual goals and aspirations are, what situations result in distractions and/or decreased performance, and what tools and support they need to be excellent and expert in their role. A punish or pamper mentality reduces the manager’s job to that of a surrogate parent, not an effective leader or even an adequate manager.

So, how does a manager become an effective leader?

Stop treating those that report to you as children; treat them as adults. Adults can make decisions and self-direct their efforts. Adults are held responsible for their decisions, good or bad, and for their actions, good or bad. Adults don’t purposely make mistakes and get away with them. Adults do make mistakes due to bad judgement or bad information. A leader always assumes positive intention by staff and uses mistakes as an opportunity to teach and coach.

In organizations I have led, I have an 80/20 rule. An employee can make mistakes up to 20% of he time. The covenant I create with each employee is to always exhibit trust and integrity in their work. We are all humans and not one of us is perfect. Let’s agree we will sooner or later goof up. I promise to the team when I make a mistake I will own up to it, mea culpa and take the heat. Likewise each team member agrees to own up to their mistakes immediately and accepts responsibility. As leaders we know, if a mistake is made, the imperative should be to immediately take corrective action to mitigate the damage. If we do not create this covenant of trust and integrity with our staff, the ensuing denials, finger-pointing and coverups do immense harm to organizational unity and performance and do nothing to control the damage caused by one innocent mistake. In fact this culture of blame placing versus blame taking magnifies the damage.

A leader’s world is not about punish or pamper, it is about teaching, coaching, mentoring and creating a team that trusts and respects each other. With this team culture, each team member is empowered to take necessary risks in their job and to be expert in the execution of their work because they know the “boss” and their team mates have their back.

Leaders create this culture of high performance by leading with our own mea culpas, by trusting the intentions of their staff, by using real-time teaching and coaching to correct incidents of poor judgement or bad information mistakes. Once it is identified that an employee does not take to the teaching and coaching but continues to make the same mistakes, help them redirect their careers elsewhere. Life is too short to waste on people that fail to learn and improve.

About Rich Jones

Strategic consultant and Keynote Speaker, Rich brings a deep experience in the disciplines of Strategic Planning, Marketing, Business Development, Digital Transformation, Data Utilization, Leadership Development and Cultural Alignment. A husband, father, runner, cyclist, beer drinker with a passion for life.

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