One day a long time ago, the HR leader of my company summoned me and informed me that I needed to terminate a direct report due to a serious issue. Based on the story I was told the situation seemed clear-cut, except for one problem: the behaviors described just didn’t fit with the person I thought I knew. I went ahead anyway and summoned the direct report to the HR office and proceeded with the termination discussion. The direct report immediately objected and went on to provide a very plausible - and very different - description of the matter. I immediately had a major ‘uh-oh’ moment when I realized that only one side of the story had been used to make the termination decision. In the end:
While I never had a repeat of the above situation (thankfully), I’ve been amazed at how many times one-sided stories have been presented to me. A common thread to all of these stories is one or more elements that are too incredible to believe, such as the behavior attributed to my direct report in the story above. Whenever these have hit my radar screen, I would immediately swing into measure-twice-cut-once mode.
How often has this happened to you, where a team member is having difficulty accomplishing an objective, and blames the poor processes of other departments, disinterested meeting participants that jeopardize achievement of goals, or bad professional behavior of others that affects overall morale? Are you asked to get involved and clear the obstacle? Do you? That’s one of the functions of a leader, right, to remove obstacles so your team can succeed?
Before diving in based on one side of the story, however, consider the risk of getting egg smeared all over your face like I did. Here are some tips you can use to measure twice before cutting.
The measure-twice-cut-once mentality is a habit that you can develop, just like brushing your teeth in the morning or parking in the same spot at work each day (or wearing a mask!). Once you develop the measure-twice-cut-once habit, you’ll find that you are better able to assess situations and make more confident decisions, whether you are watching a newscast, reading an online opinion, or listening to a colleague spin a tale that is too incredible to believe.
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