Let It Go?

In some of my leadership roles in church, I have had the opportunity to counsel with individuals who have made serious mistakes in their lives. The objective of this counseling is to help them get their lives back in order.

Most of these individuals are eager to make the needed changes; some resist. Challenges, assignments and advice are given; accountability, which is often lacking, is created. And occasional relapses occur.

Every so often, I encounter an individual who seems to want to make all the mistakes on his own: he is either unwilling or unable to learn from advice or from the mistakes of others.

I had a friend who called these individuals “sleds.” He said that you expend significant time and energy pulling them uphill, but as soon as you stop pulling, they start to slide downhill again.

You may have encountered such sleds in your organization. How do you deal with these people? I would suggest these six steps:

  1. MAKE FEEDBACK IMMEDIATE AND SPECIFIC
    Timely, specific correction is more easily connected with the incident. And stay focused. Don’t bring up everything else that has gone wrong: this is counterproductive.
  2. OUTLINE EXPECTATIONS FOR CHANGE
    Even miracles take time. The individual cannot progress unless he knows which steps should be taken to get back on track, and has some checkpoints to measure progress.
  3. OUTLINE CONSEQUENCES FOR NON-COMPLIANCE
    Except in extremely serious situations, it is usually best to give some warnings. And these consequences should be enforced!
  4. CONTINUE COACHING or DELEGATE TO ANOTHER COACH
    A mentor, or simply someone to be accountable to is frequently helpful in overcoming problems. This is especially true when an addiction is the problem. When progress is slow, appropriate encouragement is helpful. And many times, changing the mentor can make all the difference in the world: inserting another personality into the mix can change the dynamics for the better. Create accountability!
  5. FOLLOW UP
    Progress checks, both scheduled and random, are vital. If you are not going to follow up, don’t waste time and energy of either party in giving correction. Your people will receive the message that you aren’t serious about your suggestions if they never see progress checks.
  6. BE CONSISTENT
    The penalty should fit the infraction. And because people talk within your organization (I hope), there should be some consistency from person to person.

Of course, not all your people will come through for you. If the sled won’t take care of its own propulsion, sometimes you just have to let go and allow it to slide to the bottom.

Decisive action requires courage. Give yourself time for a gut check (or very often, some time to cool down) before you take action. Think it through. A planned response will create fewer regrets.

Remember Sisyphus. A leader must know when to stop pulling (or pushing).

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