A Mission Every Employer Has with Every Employee
Dr. Bill Cottringer

“The obscure takes a while to see, but the obvious even longer.” ~Anonymous.

The above quote relates to a lesson I seem to have to keep relearning and remembering from the first book I wrote several years ago—“You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too.” The important lesson is in understanding how to do this by understanding the opening quote. Oddly, the solution to this challenging paradox is rather obvious, yet obvious things usually take longer to see than even more obscure ones.

In today’s business world, employers have to solve two important paradoxes if they are to have their cheese and eat it too. These are:

• How to make money by focusing on carrying out the right mission, in the right way, with the right values.

• How to close the gap between employees’ current thinking and acting and the ideal standard of thinking and acting that employers need from them to be successful in carrying out their business mission.

Ironically, it is the creative solution to the second paradox that leads to the resolution of the first. And, this is a highly desirable win-win outcome for all the players in sustaining the end game goal—being successful long term.

Employment law generally approves of an employer’s business interest and right to expect and enforce reasonable thinking and acting standards on the job that are necessary for the employer’s success as a business. But, the trouble is that there is often a huge gap between these reasonable standards, which are often lower than the ideal ones necessary for thriving, and the actual thinking and acting skills that an employee brings to the table. In some cases, these may be even lower than the reasonable standards every employer has a right to expect from every employee, and that presents a formidable challenge.

As a business manager, I have always had great difficulty in noticing the point of no return (before it comes and goes) regarding two common situations and resolving the paradox of how to have my cheese and eat it too:

• When to fish or cut bait with an employee? The problem here is that managers often see more potential good in employees than they see in themselves and so sometimes extend opportunities past any real return on investment. Then the old adage of “no good deed goes unpunished” comes into play. Or, they get too disappointed from experience and start pulling the trigger too quickly. Either way, it is rarely a happy conclusion for either employer or employee and a lose-lose outcome, when we are really after a win-win one.
• When to separate willful disregard for an employer’s interests and standards from performance issues not necessarily under the employee’s complete control, given where they may be at in their actual thinking and behaving? Wrongly focusing on either one will most always shorten or extend employment in an untimely manner that hurts both the employer and employee, ending in a lose-lose outcome like above.

So, here is a classical challenge of how to have your cheese and eat it too and resolve the paradox with a win-win outcome for all. Psychology 101 tells us that we can’t be successful in bringing about positive change in another person, without first accepting the person where they are at now and communicating that unconditional acceptance clearly. After all, you can’t really expect to be successful having the expectation that other people will think and act like you want them to, when there is a gap between how they currently do this and some theoretical standard of reasonableness, only the law can begin to understand.

As a manager or supervisor then, when you take the needed time to understand your employees well enough to know how and why they think and act the way they do, you become much more aware of how wide this gap is and exactly what you need to do to start closing it. But, that insight has to come from a major paradigm shifting—from focusing time, resources and efforts away from maintaining standards that help the business to succeed and make money, to focusing on what you can do here and now to help the employees remove the obstacles and learn the thinking and acting skills to reach those standards by growing and improving.

The best way any employer can succeed with its business mission, is to have the primary mission of developing employees’ current thinking and acting by taking the time to help them learn, grow and improve into their best selves. Fortunately they already know how to do that and they just need some encouragement to remember how.

Here is a proven prescription to meet both missions in abundantly having your cheese and earing it too with a win-win outcome for all:

1. Take the time to learn how wide the gap may be between the reasonable standards you have a right to expect and the actual standards the employees are currently meeting, accept those realities unconditionally, and deal with them as they are one by one.

2. Make the patient and good faith effort to remove employees’ obstacles and encouraging and mentoring them to learn, grow and improve into the standard of thinking and acting that helps everyone succeed, with opportunities and resources.

Change takes time, but if you change your priorities, time changes. And, remember paradoxes are here to challenge us to be our best against all odds, not frustrate us to give up in quiet desperation. Besides, we all know adversity keeps revisiting us until we get things right, which we just need encouragement to remember That is the way of life that rules even the business world.

"It is not life or the things in life that bother us, but rather our opinions about life and these things, and the choices we have to make." ~The author in combining various quotes by others.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President of Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc. in Bellevue, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several recent business and self-development books, including, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers) Reality Repair Rx (PublishAmerica), and Reality Repair (Global Vision Press) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067, 425-454-5011 or bcottringer@pssp.net or ckuretdoc@comcast.net