One of my secret weaknesses is a certain flame-broiled hamburger and accompanying onion ring meal that frankly, just makes me happy even though certified as one of my vices by my doctor. It was last Saturday afternoon while both daughters were attending their bi-weekly dance class when the hunger pangs attacked. I had two hours to kill and was looking for a distraction or perhaps a way to reward myself for being a good Dad. I arrived at the happy destination to deal with my hunger ready to announce my willingness to participate in this wonderful ceremony of ordering a meal from my car. I pulled into the drive through and happily placed my order and waited for the fulfillment that only fried foods can bring.
Just as I turned the corner of the building, in my car, I heard the oddest thing. “Today, my goal is to fire someone”. The voice was not angry, but jovial, almost celebrating and announcing power and influence over others, now coming from this happy place of grilled meat. Then I heard it again and then again. I peered into the drive through window to see the shift manager boasting to a group of young team members. The team pretended not to hear; they didn’t respond, but just faced forward pretending to ignore the boastful crew leader. The result was a dull, depressing feeling that emitted from inside this restaurant that stayed with me for the rest of the day.
As I drove from the drive through, my fantasies of burgers and onion rings moved quickly to HR mode. I started thinking about how many other work places are out there, during a tough economy, no longer scared of turnover or employee satisfaction. The face of “turn em’ and burn em'” was alive and thriving. It was another example of the sad commentary of employers discarding the advances of employee engagement. The turn of the century mentality that employees have nowhere else to go. As I sad fully looked at this leader, I couldn’t help but think about the missed opportunities left behind by this young leader who likely just didn’t know the impact of her words.
I reflected on this exhibition of perceived power, what if that one leader instead said:
- “Today my goal is to make sure every customer has a great experience.”
- “Today my goal is to make sure you guys have a great time at work.”
- “Today my goal is to make this place the cleanest it’s ever been.”
- “Today my goal is for us to produce the absolute best fast food in history.”
- “Today my goal is to be the best supervisor you’ve ever seen.”
I wonder of the reaction and outcome if one of those statements were made instead of the one I heard. You may think that this was just a random comment, perhaps a person trying to be funny, but look how it impacted others including me. Mentally and emotionally, how did these team members respond that was not apparent to me and this leader in the minutes, hours, and days to come? What opportunities were missed for the company that employed these people in customer satisfaction and retention?
As leaders, this is our daily challenge, it’s not the comments we make, but the message that becomes imbedded in the people we lead. This is the impact we have on others and the opportunity we have to either support people or reduce their effectiveness.