“If I Panic Everyone Else Panics.”
I was sitting in the break room reading John C. Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership” when Eric, one of our store’s assistant managers walked up to my table and asked if he could talk to me in his office after my break was over.
I like Eric. We have been friends for quite a while. He is smart, funny, and appears to have everything a potential leader needs to succeed.
Well, everything that is, EXCEPT a good reputation.
As a pharmacist who happens to write leadership books, working for a big box retailer is an interesting experience.
Whenever a “DRAMATIC LEADERSHIP EVENT” occurs, I usually get an earful from the affected employee, their supervisor, and of course, the rumor mill!
Therefore, I was pretty sure I knew what he wanted to talk about.
“I’m pretty much done now my friend.” I said as I stood up from my table, acknowledging that I would be happy to speak with him.
As we arrived at his office, Eric described to me HIS version of the event in question.
A young, rather rambunctious stockman in his department, got a little wild with a pallet jack and spilled an entire pallet of paint.
In his version, when he went to “discuss it” with him, the stockman got mad, said something disrespectful, and stormed off.
The rumor mill’s version was that he had, “as usual” completely flown off the handle and started yelling at the stockman on the sales floor, and the situation had gone downhill from there.
What Eric wanted to ask me was how I thought he should go about repairing his relationship with the stockman.
He felt bad because he knew that regardless of the facts, their “conversation” should never have taken place on the sales floor.
“Why did ‘the conversation’ happen on the sales floor in the first place?” I asked as casually as I could.
“All I said was ‘Matt I’ve told you before about slowing down with the pallet jack’ and before I knew it we were nose to nose.”
“Is Matt a good employee?”
“Oh yeah, for a kid his age, he works pretty hard. But, he spilled paint everywhere!”
“You didn’t think that gave him a clue that he had messed up?” I said sarcastically.
“I don’t know, I guess I just kind of said…that he should be more careful.”
“WHY DID YOU CALL HIM AN IDIOT?” I asked with a huge grin on my face.
Just between you and me, I was trying to draw him into a small argument in order order to make my point.
Sadly, while amusing, it was all too easy.
“I NEVER SAID THAT! YOU KNOW I NEVER SAID THAT!”
“Not with your words, but with your timing, and with your tone of voice. What do you think HE HEARD?” I said, more than asked, very directly.
“BUT, BUT, DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THE TROUBLE HE CAUSED ME!?! ALL BECAUSE HE WASN’T BEING CAREFUL!”
“This isn’t about me, and what I understand. This isn’t even about Matt.” I said very slowly and very softly so as to bring the conversation back down to an effective teaching level.
“Well then, what is it about genius?” Eric asked. Now he was being sarcastic. Which was also rather amusing.
“It’s about a concept that Dr. Stephen Covey described in a book called ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’. THE SPACE BETWEEN STIMULUS ON RESPONSE.” I said, walking over to the the bookshelf IN HIS OFFICE and picking up the very book I was referencing.
He blinked a couple of times, so I continued.
“Look Eric, employees are going to mess up. As leaders, we need to literally stop time when they do. Whatever the mess up, we need to stay calm, not overreact, and only ‘discuss’ the issue, the cause, and the ramifications, AFTER EVERYONE HAS CALMED DOWN.“
“But what he did was so stupid…” he blurted out obviously trying to defend his own behavior.
“And your panicking was brilliant?” I said reverting back to sarcasm. I love talking leadership with friends. 🙂
His eyes got huge!
“Is that how YOU see it? I panicked.”
“Yep, now go apologize for calling him an idiot and buy him a Monster drink. Then take the book I just handed you and put it in your car. These things aren’t meant to be used as decorations you know!”
Did I mention that I love discussing leadership with friends? 🙂