I was mesmerized by a story in our newspaper today of a great whale swimming down the River Thames. This was quite a spectacle I am sure, drawing huge crowds of onlookers to view an enormous Bottle Nose whale normally only found in the deep Northern Atlantic ocean, and difficult to spot event there. The story then went on to explain that the whale was likely in distress causing it to exhibit this bizarre behavior with it’s surprising visit to London.
As you would hope and expect, elaborate plans were in the making to save this great creature. A whale in distress is something that touches our hearts and we want to do all that we possibly can. But are not we humans, also magnificent creatures? How often do we see humans on the job exhibiting somewhat bizarre behavior only to be greeted with negative feedback, reprimands or worse yet, to be completely avoided and ignored? How often do we take the time to try and see these employees as potentially “in distress” and try to rally around them to help them return to the safe waters again?
Seeing unusual behavior as a sign of distress rather than orneriness or incompetence is a first step in helping employees through what ever the crises may be and bringing them back to the team as a fully contributing member. But, whatever we believe may the causing the behavior we need to remind out selves that this is only our opinion and all we really know for sure is the behavior we are observing. What we must focus our discussions on, as suggested in a course called the Essential Skills of Leadership published by Vital Learning, is the observed behavior, not the attitudes that we believe may be at the root of the problem. Attitudes are difficult to change, and even more difficult to identify because we can never really know what is happening inside another person, In fact most discussions about attitudes will usually result in defensiveness and bad feelings and not positive change. In reaching out to engage your team members who may be in some kind of distress, highlight the behavior in question in a concerned and caring way and ask the employee for their opinion. Involve them in generating solutions and watch their commitment grow. Reel them back into the team and they will pay the team back with tremendous loyalty and quality efforts.