Believe In Your Staff When They Screw Up

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea that will build enhanced performance throughout your organization.

         Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! The young corporate helicopter pilot screamed into the radio over Lake Michigan shortly after taking off from Chicago. Equipment failure. The blades stopped turning and the helicopter began dropping like a rock out of the sky.  The pilot’s heart sank just as fast.

       After all, he was flying four executives on their corporate helicopter. All he could think of as he carefully and skillfully ditched the helicopter into Lake Michigan was that if he didn’t die in this helicopter crash he certainly would be fired.

       Somebody’s got to take the fall for a screw-up like this and with only two years seniority on the job he was most likely to be the fall guy.

      Splash! The helicopter safely ditched.  Lake Michigan quickly swallowed up the helicopter.  All four executives and the pilot were safe. There were wearing their life-vests and bobbing in the 54-degree water as the sun was setting on a cool autumn day. Within an hour, the Coast Guard rescued all five. They were cold but not hurt. The Glad-to-be-Alive-Five took alternative transportation that evening back to their corporate headquarters. All were back to work the following day.

               The next day the 28-year-old pilot got a phone call from the Boss of all bosses– the chief executive officer — who had phoned the night of the accident to make sure all of his employees were safe. The CEO told the pilot to pick him up at the corporate headquarters in the company’s backup helicopter.  The pilot dutifully responded. “Where do you want to go?” asked the pilot as the CEO got in the helicopter. “Oh, no where in particular. Let’s just go for a ride.”

         The surprised pilot took a deep breath. His self-confidence restored. And his performance as a pilot — eventually  promoted to chief pilot over the ensuing 30 years — was exemplary. That’s what CEOs do. That’s what leaders do.  They infuse a sense of self-worth in others especially when things go wrong. Of course the young pilot who had an exemplary safety record before the equipment failure was not to blame for the loss of the helicopter. But he thought so. And that self-doubt could have had resounding negative effects on the corporation.

Putting Yourself in the Shoes of Your Confidence-Shaken Staffer

Thomas Edison in the laboratory with his light bulb

            I have always admired CEOs who go out of their way to add value to their employees. These leaders  put themselves in the shoes of one of their staffers, feel what they are feeling at the moment, and then PERSONALLY put themselves on the line to demonstrate in PERSON his or her faith and confidence in their employee especially in trying circumstances.

          Of course you don’t need to be a CEO to treat your colleagues with this kind of respect. What if you were a project leader and you worked  PERSONALLY on building a GLASS prototype for 24 straight hours. Then you gave it to a staffer to carry it into another testing lab and he accidentally dropped the glass into what seemed hundred different pieces smashed  on the floor.  Here’s what Thomas Edison did. He rebuilt the glass light bulb prototype in another 24 hours and immediately handed the fragile bulb to the same assistant who carefully and confidently carried out the experiment flawlessly. That’s leadership.

Today’s ImproveMINT
Personally demonstrate your faith in others to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on Relationship Building:
Parlaying Your Golden Eggs
Leaders are Lovers
Getting to Know You Intimately

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