So you want to be a Thought Leader, eh?

So you want to be a Thought Leader, eh?

In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a few things from so-called “thought leaders” that make me say “what?” One fella I follow on Twitter, who I really admire for a certain business philosophy he teaches, had this to say about disciplining team members. (I don’t use the word employees; long-time followers know that about me and so does my team.)

When an employee starts with your company or during their periodic reviews or when discussing ways to motivate your team, ask your employee how they want you to address disciplinary issues should they ever come up. Let them lay down the rules.

Do they want you to email them or write them a formal letter? Do they prefer you call them into your office for a private meeting? Do they prefer you take them offsite to a local Starbucks to have a heart to heart? Document their preferred method in your HR file.

Okay, I sort of get where he’s coming from but under no circumstances is e-mailing discipline to a Team Member a way to go. Sure, if one of your folks forgot to lock a window, or turn off the lights, you maybe e-mail them that. But if you have someone who said something inappropriate, made a mistake on a job that cost you a client, or countless other things, there’s no way you e-mail that. I agree with the blogger’s comments about finding out how you “get through” to a team member, but in reading his post, I think I’ve exposed him, to a degree. There’s no way he has managed a large team of people and, therefore, shouldn’t be commenting on this type of issue. To be blunt, he’s a thought leader on business, but not HR. I can’t imagine there is an HR Guru that would agree with his post. And here’s my point this week: 

A thought leader is someone who has experience in a particular area. And it’s not just the experience that’s important; it’s the learning that goes on from the experience. When e-mail was first invented, I sent all sorts of e-mails with discipline in them and you know what I found out from that experience? It doesn’t work! E-mails are read wrong; the tonality is lost and people either read too much or not enough into them, but they rarely get it “just right,” as Goldilocks would say. 

My guess is: the thousand or so folks that get my weekly great idea have the potential to be a “thought leader” on a topic. We are all experts on something. But none of us is an expert on everything and experience is the real teacher. In fact, in my world of coaching, consulting, blogging, and the like, I try to stay focused on teaching things that I have experience with. So, you’re never going to hear anything from me on accounting, using a transit, flying a plane, coaching football, physics, geology, sociology, or anything with “ology” in it. I’ll stick to what I’ve tried as experience is the best teacher of all. 

And, in case you didn’t get one of the many messages and rants in this week’s Great Idea, don’t e-mail your team discipline. Instead, sit down with them and be inquisitive, not accusatory, and have a conversation. We’re adults trying to run landscaping companies. You don’t have all the answers nor do I. But together, we just might.

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