Lead. That is All I Ask.

Crossposted on HRM Today

You can tell a lot about a society by the way they take care of their children. You can tell a lot about an organization by the way they terminate their employees.

An employee receives a termination notice. This event plays itself out in different ways, on different days, in many different organizations. In your organization, is a termination notice the unfortunate, but expected, end to an ongoing conversation? Or is it a surprise?

Surprises are a huge distraction. Employee energy and focus shifts to the inequity (real or perceived) that has occurred. Customers, what customers? They will say it is unfair, they will call it an injustice. An employee has been wronged, they will say, and they are doing this for her. Or so they think. The employees have gone into self-protection mode, "if it happened to her, it can happen to me." The engagement the organization has worked so hard to enhance, measure and maintain is jeopardized. The credibility the organzitaion has worked so hard to establish is chipped away at, one surprise at a time.

Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell Soup was quoted in Harvard Business Review  (subscription needed for full article) saying, "You can't talk your way out of something you behaved your way into. You have to behave your way out of it." Now, how absolutely perfect is that?!

Leaders, want to engage employees? Talk to them. Let them know what you think. Tell them when they are in troubled waters. Provide them with an opportunity to succeed. Lead.

Don't take your organizational credibility for granted. Protect it fiercely. Everything else is just icing on the cake.