Discipline Without Punishment

“We need to understand the difference between discipline and punishment, Punishment is what you do to someone; discipline is what you do for someone” – Zig Ziglar

Disciplining people has always been a difficult matter for managers with many being uncomfortable with its adversarial nature. This often leads to the performance or behavioral issue being avoided and left unaddressed (which exacerbates the problem), being addressed inconsistently (which makes the manager seem week and the process unjust), or being handled poorly (which damages the relationship and creates an on-going problem). Rarely is the discipline process handled well!

The traditional progressive discipline approach is certainly unpleasant. It breeds resentment and hostility. But the traditional system is flawed in two ways: firstly, it tends to exclusively rely on punishment, and secondly it is insufficiently demanding on the person being disciplined. Punishments used, such as warnings, reprimands, suspensions without pay, only produce compliance which only works in the short-term and is ineffective. You want commitment, and you cannot punish people to gain commitment.

So how can you discipline people effectively without resorting punishment? And how, in doing so, can you gain commitment from the employee to perform and behave to those standards which are expected?

Before we go into this there is one caveat, we are assuming that you have and follow a documented disciplinary process. If not, you need to develop this as soon as possible, so that the process is clear and transparent to everyone (managers and employees), and that you are consistent in your treatment of people.

This new approach is progressive, as problems became more serious so the responses became more serious. But instead of using punishments, the focus is on engaging the individual in agreeing to change. They are being treated as an adult, not as a poorly behaving child. The focus is on requiring the individual to take responsibility for themselves and their actions and to make the decisions for himself or herself.

Often the final step in a traditional disciplinary process, before termination, is an unpaid disciplinary layoff. In this approach, this is replaced with a paid disciplinary suspension.

How It Works – The Paid Disciplinary Suspension
Upon reaching the final step in this new system, the employee is told that he would be suspended from work on the following day. He was told that he must return on the day after the suspension having made a final decision: either to solve the immediate problem and make a total commitment to fully acceptable performance in every area of his job, or to quit and find more satisfying work someplace else. The company bears the cost of this paid day as a sincere demonstration of its desire to see the employee change and stay. However, the employee is told that if he decides to stay, and there is another disciplinary problem, then he or she will be terminated. In essence, his or her future is in his or her own hands, it is their choice to make, and the company will accept his or her decision. Fundamentally, the choice is either to change and stay; or quit and find opportunities elsewhere.

Advantages of Discipline without Punishment

  • Cooling-off period – it allows both sides to calmly reflect on the situation,
  • Provides a dramatic gesture – the suspension period forces the employee to face the facts; face unemployment or correct your behavior.
  • Defensive – should an employee be fired and then challenge the action the company has a clear and demonstrable process that the employee was fully aware of the situation and the alternatives, and that the employee made their choice.
  • Demonstrates good faith – this shows the individual that the business is serious in its intent.
  • It makes life easier for managers – many managers are loathed to take disciplinary action. This process makes it easier as the onus for the decision to stay or leave is the employee, not the manager.
  • It’s appropriate for any job – whether the employee is at the front-line, middle-management or in the upper echelons of the business it is equally applicable and transparent.
  • It reinforces your values – most organizations take pride in being fair employers. This allows you to be so without punishing people in a way that compromises the spirit of your values.

So will you keep discipline without punishment? Make people responsible and accountable for their performance and actions, and help them decide what to do – whether to leave or to commit to change and improve their performance and how they behave.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

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3 Steps to Help Your Managers Prepare for Difficult Conversations

In times of challenges and uncertainty, supervisors might be experiencing an increase in the number of difficult conversations with their staff. These could include delivering bad news about an employee’s job, informing staff about work restructuring, or discussing other complicated and stressful work situations.

  1. Preparing for the conversation

Before going into the conversation, ask yourself several key questions. Consult with peers, and other appropriate resources to be sure you’re comfortable with the answers.

Key questions include:

  • What is my purpose for having the conversation?
  • What do I hope to accomplish?
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What assumptions am I making about the other person’s reaction to the conversation?
  • What “hot buttons” exist – for me and for the other person?
  • How is my attitude toward the conversation contributing to the intended outcome?

Practice the conversation. You can mentally rehearse it in your mind, or practice it out loud with your supervisor, Employee Assistance Program, or Human Resources.

  1. Holding the conversation

A successful outcome will depend on two things: what you say and how you say it. How you approach the conversation and how you behave will greatly influence what you say and how it is perceived.

Acknowledge any emotional energy that might be fueled by the conversation. The emotional content is as important as the facts.

Keep aligned with the purpose of your conversation. Don’t be distracted by side tracks.

Suggestions for opening the conversation include:

  • “I’d like to talk to you about. . .”
  • “I want to better understand your point of view. Can we talk more about. . .”
  • “I’d like to talk about ________. I think we may have different ideas on how to ______.”

 

  1. Working Toward a Successful Outcome

Approach the conversation with an attitude of inquiry and discovery. Set aside assumptions and try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s point of view. Let the employees complete what they have to say without interruption.

Acknowledge that you’ve heard what the other person is trying to say. The best way to do this is to repeat their argument back to them. You don’t have to agree. Saying “it sounds like this issue is very important to you” doesn’t mean that you have to decide the way they’d like you to.

Advocate for your position without diminishing theirs. State your position concisely and clarify points they may not have understood.

End with problem solving. Find mutual areas where you can agree on solutions and identify what steps need to be taken. If there is no common ground, return to inquiry.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Peter Drucker on Marketing

Peter DruckerLong ago Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, made a very profound observation that has been lost in the sands of time:

Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Today, when top management is surveyed, their priorities in order are finance, sales, production, management, legal and people. Missing from the list: marketing and innovation. When one considers the trouble that many of our icons have run into in recent years, it is not easy to surmise that Drucker’s advice would have perhaps helped management to avoid the problems they face today.

Ironically, David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame once observed that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.” But as the years rolled on, rather than learn about marketing and innovation, executives started to search for role models instead of marketing models.

Tom Peters probably gave this trend a giant boost with the very successful book he co-authored, In Search of Excellence. Excellence, as defined in that book, didn’t equal longevity, however, as many of the role models offered there have since foundered. In retrospect, a better title for the book might have been In Search of Strategy.

A popular method-by-example book has been Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras. In it, they write glowingly about “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” that turned the likes of Boeing, Wal-Mart Stores, General Electric, IBM and others into the successful giants they have become.

The companies that the authors of Built to Last suggest for emulation were founded from 1812 (Citicorp) to 1945 (Wal-Mart). These firms didn’t have to deal with the intense competition in today’s global economy. While there is much you can learn from their success, they had the luxury of growing up when business life was a lot simpler. As a result, these role models are not very useful for companies today.

There is a growing legion of competitors coming at new businesses from every corner of the globe. Technologies are ever changing. The pace of change is faster. It is increasingly difficult for CEOs to digest the flood of information out there and make the right choices.

But a CEO can have a future.

The trick to surviving out there is not to stare at the balance sheet but simply to know where you must go to find success in a market. That’s because no one can follow you (the board, your managers, your employees) if you don’t know where you’re headed.

How do you find the proper direction? To become a great strategist, you have to put your mind in the mud of the marketplace. You have to find your inspiration down at the front, in the ebb and flow of the great marketing battles taking place in the mind of the prospect. Here is a four-step process to pursue:

Step 1: Make Sense in the Context

Arguments are never made in a vacuum. There are always surrounding competitors trying to make arguments of their own. Your message has to make sense in the context of the category. It has to start with what the marketplace has heard and registered from your competition.

What you really want to get is a quick snapshot of the perceptions that exist in the mind, not deep thoughts.

What you’re after are the perceptual strengths and weaknesses of you and your competitors as they exist in the minds of the target group of customers.

Step 2: Find the Differentiating Idea

To be different is to be not the same. To be unique is to be one of its kinds.

So you’re looking for something that separates you from your competitors. The secret to this understands that your difference does not have to be product related.

Consider a horse. Yes, horses are quickly differentiated by their type. There are racehorses, jumpers, ranch horses, wild horses and on and on. But racehorses can be differentiated by breeding, by performance, by stable, by the trainer and so forth.

Step 3: Have the Credentials

There are many ways to set your company or product apart. Let’s just say the trick is to find that difference and then use it to set up a benefit for your customer.

To build a logical argument for your difference, you must have the credentials to support your differentiating idea, to make it real and believable.

If you have a product difference, then you should be able to demonstrate that difference. The demonstration, in turn, becomes your credentials. If you have a leak-proof valve, then you should be able to have a direct comparison with valves that can leak.

Claims of difference without proof are really just claims. For example, a “wide-track” Pontiac must be wider than other cars. British Airways as the “world’s favorite airline” should fly more people than any other airline. Coca-Cola as the “real thing” has to have invented colas.

You can’t differentiate with smoke and mirrors. Consumers are skeptical. They’re thinking, “Oh yeah, Mr. Advertiser? Prove it!” You must be able to support your argument.

It’s not exactly like being in a court of law. It’s more like being in the court of public opinion, especially with the rise of social media.

Step 4: Communicate Your Difference

Just as you can’t keep your light under a basket, you can’t keep your difference under wraps.

If you build a differentiated product, the world will not automatically beat a path to your door. Better products don’t win. Better perceptions tend to be the winners. The truth will not win out unless it has some help along the way.

Every aspect of your communications should reflect your difference. Your advertising. Your brochures. Your web site. Your sales presentations.

The folks who work for or with you don’t need mystical answers on “How do I unlock my true potential?” The question they need answering is, “What makes this company different?”

That answer gives them something to latch onto, and run with.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.