Q: What Could We Do To Help Team Leaders Learn The Art Of Discipline?
There could be a variety of reasons why leaders don't use appropriate measures to maintain high levels of conduct and performance. Before embarking on an expensive and time-consuming training intervention, consider the broad range of possible remedies to prevent and counteract a breakdown in discipline.
Grant them authority. Have your team leaders in fact been granted the authority to correct performance and behavior problems? Often, individuals in leadership roles lack this authority. Rather than trying to get approval to exercise discipline, or risk having their decisions overturned, many people opt for leniency. A few minutes spent talking with some of your team leaders should clear up whether or not the amount of "real" authority measures up to what has supposedly been granted. If it turns out that your people are vested with "pseudo-authority," a decision to change that should be pursued.
Review your process. In many organizations, the disciplinary system in place is fundamentally flawed. Many still operate under an antiquated doctrine that suggests that nearly all human failings, be they conduct- or performance-related, can be addressed via a series of progressively severe sanctions (progressive discipline). This fails to consider root causes, and as a result, issues of conduct take entirely too long to resolve, if they ever are resolved.
Encourage courage. Leadership is a contact sport. It takes courage to let someone know that their behavior or performance must change. Putting personal popularity at risk to speak honestly with people is a fundamental quality of leaders. Some people have this ability and some people lack it. This certainly is a selection issue, and it also may be a coaching issue at times, but we don't see it as a training issue.
Assess skills. If you've established that your leaders in fact have the authority and courage and that your disciplinary/performance-improvement processes are sound, then your original premise may be correct.
To deal with behavior issues, leaders should be trained to give clear, timely feedback to the violating employee, indicating the kind of behavior that is expected going forward. Often this can be done under the tutelage of their own managers without the need for a formal training course.
For performance issues, managers should be trained in coaching and feedback skills. The emphasis here is on developing employees' skills and performance levels, not administering discipline. You may need to start with basic leadership training and then advance to a well-designed series of training initiatives on coaching for performance and development.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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