It was September of 1996, and here in the Atlanta area, the buildup of the 1996 Summer Olympics was in the past.
It was back to our everyday routines.
And I love routine. I am a creature of habit, especially at work.
As the week started, I ran reports on my sales team’s results and activity.
And I start diving into the details. I always start with people who need the most help.
Scott is at the bottom of the report for the fifth week out of the last seven. He was last in sales and activity compared to the eight others in his hiring class (month).
In about a half hour, I have a list of people I need to meet with this morning. This week will be a better week for the people on my list.
With a fresh cup of coffee, I asked Scott to join me at my desk.
Instead of pointing out all the areas that have not improved, like the last few Monday meetings with him, I said, “We both know that you are capable of much more.” Then I asked, “What do you think needs to change this week?”
His eyes got stern, then his face turned red. Then he said, “Why are you doing this to me?”
I replied, “Doing what?”
“Mark,” he said in a very angry tone, “I am tired of every Monday for the past few weeks meeting with you.”
“Scott”, I asked, “Why are we here?”
Again, in an angry tone, “I don’t know. I don’t see anyone else being chastised first thing on Monday.”
“Scott, please tell me the three things that need to change to get the results that you are capable of.”
A blank look. A red face.
I said, “Scott, I evaluate talent and motivation. I hire and invest based on those criteria. I can teach you how to perform at a high level, and your team leader and I can mentor you. Scott, you must do the work and implement what you learned. What we are doing here is accountability, problem-solving, and working to reach the next level. We agreed you would reach performance levels by improving your mindset and activity and mastering the skills. If what we are doing here, in your view, is chastising you, you need to reconsider if sales and this company are the right situation for you. I have not given up on you. Otherwise, I would not be investing company resources, including each other’s time, to help you.”
Again, the blank stare.
I reached in my pocket and said, “Are you open to a chicken biscuit?”
And he nodded. “Here’s five dollars. Please pick us up chicken biscuits, and let’s reconvene. When we sit down, I would like to know if our meetings in the future are ‘You are doing this to me’ or ‘Doing this for me?’ “Scott, is that okay?”
Scott nodded, and I shook his hand.
Tough love isn’t the easiest to deliver. But, whether it’s business, children, academics, or athletics, realizing one’s potential usually comes with a tough love.