“In times of change, learners inherit the earth…”
Early in my career I was working as a manager for a franchise. We had a small team of managers, just four of us. We all worked closely together to keep the organization running smoothly.
If one of us wanted more than a day off, we had to make sure none of the other managers were planning to be off. That way, there were always two managers scheduled to work and one in reserve.
The store manager was the top manager on site. I, along with the other two managers, reported to her. I always worked the day shift, opening the store every morning and preparing for the customers. I was always following the night manager Joe (name changed), and whatever shape the store was left in when he closed would be what I had to deal with the next day.
Joe loved to have a good time at work. He loved people and tried very hard to make everyone happy. Often, that meant giving away free stuff to customers and employees, even though it wasn’t his to give away. Joe liked to be the good guy. Unfortunately, he liked making everyone happy more than he liked making sure the work was done.
I had only been working there a few months when I started to notice a pattern. When I opened the store after Joe had worked the night shift, things would be missing. The cash register wouldn’t be balanced or closed out correctly. The store wouldn’t be clean or stocked. The time sheets would be a mess and no one had taken their breaks or clocked out early when business was slow.
I wasn’t the only one noticing these things.
Our store manager asked Joe to come in early for a shift one afternoon, so no one else would be working, and the store would be slow. I was asked to be a witness for HR documentation purposes. Firmly, and with kindness, she laid it all on the table for Joe to be sure he knew where the problems were.
Joe wasn’t meeting expectations. He wasn’t following the (very few) rules we had about giving away freebies to employees and customers. He was trying hard to be friends with the employees and was crossing the line from leader/manager to buddy. Discipline problems were showing up in the form of poor customer service.
In the past, Joe’s lack of leadership and management skills had not been as big of an issue because the previous franchise owners didn’t require it.
But, we had a new franchise owner. The new owner had high expectations, higher requirements, and lower margins. They expected all of us to follow the standards. Joe needed to change in order to keep his job. If he didn’t change, he would be changed.
“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” ~ Eric Hoffer
Joe needed to unlearn his old style of management and leadership, learn a new set of skills, and install some discipline on his shift in order to overcome his too-friendly relationship with some employees.
He would also need to change his focus from having fun to getting results. He needed to change his habit of oversleeping sometimes and being late for a shift. He needed to change leaving the store messy for someone else to clean up on the next shift. Joe needed to change his character.
Joe was receptive to the feedback from our store manager, and he really tried to improve over the next few weeks. But, he really just didn’t like to tell anyone “no,” and the employees knew it.
Things weren’t getting better; they were getting worse. Joe eventually decided he didn’t want to change. When confronted with the decision, he refused to change and was forced to resign.
Joe had learned to get along ok with the previous ownership. But, Joe wasn’t able to, (or wasn’t going to) unlearn, relearn, and change his behavior, style, and character to meet the demands of our new culture.
When things change, we can decide to change with them, or we will find ourselves put aside, passed over, or pushed out.
For the first two situations, we may never even realize there was an opportunity, and we missed it. We become quietly overlooked once we’re identified as someone who refuses to change when necessary. Opportunities and promotions may go to someone with less experience or seniority simply because they demonstrate the ability and willingness to change.
For the third situation, we find ourselves pushed out (fired, terminated, asked to resign or retire). Often, although not always, that’s the result of continuously refusing to change over time.
In times of change, we must be able to meet the demands of a new reality. Or, we will become obsolete.
About the author: Ria co-founded Top Story Leadership, a consulting company offering keynote speaking, leadership training, and coaching. They work with organizations to unleash leadership potential by taking the complex and making it simple.
Like many, Ria has faced adversity in life. Raised on an isolated farm in Alabama, she was sexually abused by her father from age 12 – 19. She was forced to play the role of a wife and even shared with other men due to her father’s perversions. Desperate to escape, she left home at 19 without a job, a car, or even a high school diploma. Ria learned to be resilient, and not only to survive, but also to thrive. She shares her story to inspire hope and teach others how to apply the same success and leadership principles she applied.