I messed up - big time. I knew deep in my gut something had to be wrong, but for some reason, I didn't have a frank, direct conversation with Joseph. During our numerous status meetings, I had accepted his rationalizations of a hectic travel schedule, numerous new team members, and uncooperative clients to justify his less-than stellar performance. I asked myself regularly: Why wasn't he performing to the level I knew he could? Why wasn't he communicating with the other team members? Why was his department falling behind schedule? Even though I had asked myself these questions, I didn't ask them of him. I allowed my prior work history and knowledge of his expertise and abilities to cloud reality. I allowed myself to glaze over the reality that a star performer wasn't performing like a star anymore.
In addition, I accepted his rationalizations too long; other team members were now frustrated and their projects were being negatively impacted because of his lack of input on critical issues.

When I did finally sit with him to basically say: "Enough is enough. We need to fix this," Joseph finally shared with me that his marriage had fallen apart, his wife had left, and he was taking care of his two small children alone. He apologized to me for letting the team down. He apologized for letting me down. He apologized for failing in his key role. I felt like a heel. This man had gone through personal hell for months, and I had no idea - no one did. Even though I had felt in my gut that something was "off" with him, I hadn't acted on that feeling to ask him directly as a manager - and as a friend - what was really going on. Instead, I had focused on the work and assumed he'd get himself and the team refocused and back
on target.

I apologized to Joseph. I had messed up; not him. As the leader, it is my responsibility to act on behaviors that are not in line with what I know are "normal" for key people. It was my fault for not talking with him weeks ago and alleviating some of the work pressure for him sooner so he could focus on his personal life. I had felt something was "off" with him, and I hadn't acted on it. When I told him to focus on his family, the rest of the team and I will handle the work, he was relieved and grateful.
He's making progress reshaping his life; and the work is being handled. Everyone is happier. Everyone could have been happier sooner if I'd acted on that gut feeling of "
Something being 'off'."

What feelings are you burying that may be indicating trouble for one of your key people or teams? It may be nothing. But if it's something, don't you want to know about it sooner rather than later? If something feels "off," it probably is. Do your job: determine what's "off"
and what's not.

Copyright 2009 - Liz Weber, CMC - Weber Business Services, LLC.
WBS is a team of Strategic Planning and Leadership Development Consultants, Trainers, and Speakers. Liz can be reached at liz@wbsllc.com or (717)597-8890. Additional articles on strategic & succession planning and leadership can be found at http://www.wbsllc.com/articles.shtml or http://www.liz-weber.com/articles.php

Author's Bio: 

In the words of one client, "Liz Weber will help you see opportunities you never knew existed."

A sought-after consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop presenter, Liz is known for her candor, insights, and her ability to make the complex "easy." She creates clarity for her audiences during her results-oriented presentations and training sessions.

Participants walk away from her sessions knowing how to implement the ideas she's shared not just once, but over and over to ensure continuous improvement and management growth and development.

This former Dragon Lady has been there, done it, and learned from it. Whether speaking to corporate executives or government agency personnel, Liz's comments and insights ring true.

As the President of Weber Business Services, LLC, a management consulting, training, and speaking firm headquartered near Harrisburg, PA, Liz and her team of consultants provide strategic and succession planning, management policy & systems development, employee training, as well as marketing and media outreach services.

Liz has supervised business activities in 139 countries and has consulted with organizations in over 20 countries. She has designed and facilitated conferences from Bangkok to Bonn and Tokyo to Tunis. Liz has taught for the Johns Hopkins University's Graduate School of Continuing Studies and currently teaches with the Georgetown University's Senior Executive Leadership Program.

Liz is the author of 'Leading From the Manager's Corner', and 'Don't Let 'Em Treat You Like a Girl - A Woman's Guide to Leadership Success (Tips from the Guys)'. Her 'Manager's Corner' column appears monthly in several trade publications and association newsletters.