Call before you fall


I was always big on the power of observation. I was the Watcher. As a child, I was the lookout person, whenever we were involved in mischief. Therefore, I saw more bad things than I actually performed. Incidentally, I studied people. Since I was watching them, I developed a sixth sense on how people act, even if I didn’t understand why they responded in a certain way.

In business, I noticed a peculiar phenomenon. People would not call for help immediately when they were in trouble. I would ask them to call me before they got in deep water, but invariably the phone would ring and I would hear their story and blub, blub, blub, blub on the other end of the line. They would not call me until the quicksand or water level was nearly over their head. I asked why they waited. Their responses would usually include a variation of these explanations;

  1. They did not want to disturb me because they knew I was busy
  2. They thought they could do it on their own
  3. They did not want to admit they needed help

I do not mind investing the time to develop someone or to ease their transition into the organization.  Yes, I am busy and their calling me or not will not change by situation. Furthermore there are a lot of people on the planet who have access to my time and my counsel. I am routinely consulted for my opinion. Why shouldn’t they avail themselves of my services? Anyone who is busy knows that a phone call for an important issue is worth the interruption in their schedule.

Secondly, it is sure foolishness, if you need help, to avoid reaching out for assistance. You should not try to accomplish any task or climb any mountain on your own when you are struggling. We are interconnected and interdependent as human beings and need each other to survive. A hefty ego can be an anchor to weigh us down when we need to be buoyant and able to float when necessary. When I arrived at college I was use to studying on my own, because that’s the way we did it in my high school. However, those receiving the better grades in college studied in groups. They would quiz and challenge each other. In brain storming sessions at sales meetings, I noticed the result was better when team members bounced ideas off of each other, in a spirit of collaboration.

Thirdly, everyone needs help at some point in their lives. Successful people would not be where they are today without trusted mentors, teachers, parents, coaches, friends and Good Samaritans to help them along their journey. The most confident person requires help at strategic locations on their journey through life.

Emergency Assistance

When I receive notification of trouble, it falls into one of two categories.

  1. A performance problem related to a skill deficiency on the part of the caller
  2. A performance problem related to a hostile work environment boarding on harassment  caused by the manager

The person is in a desperate position. They cry out to me as their last hope. They want me to use my influence to repair their damaged career and to make their problems go away. If the problem is a skill deficiency, it is wise to solicit help early in the process. I can make recommendations for additional coaching and mentoring to guide them through the rough waters. People learn at different speeds, so I may be able to advise them on methods to accelerate their learning process.

Performance problems as a result of a hostile work environment are particularly precarious. If people have a legitimate complaint, but wait until they are about to be fired for poor performance, their case loses credibility. An early intervention and discussions with Human Resources, may lead to contacting the proper authorities and gaining the assistance they need, before it is too late.

Management realizes it is not usual for a person failing on the job to blame their manager, when faced with potential termination. This information works to the advantage of a bad manager. And if left unchecked early, the manager will build a case against their direct report and convince their superiors that the employee is incapable of doing the job.  

The moral of the story is, before you are in hot water, call for help immediately, before your situation blossom into a performance problem. It is difficult to intervene on behalf of a struggling employee on the verge of termination. The odds of a successful conclusion to your problems are increased if you call before you fall. Don’t hesitate until it is too late. .

Copyright © 2010 Orlando Ceaser

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