On the shuttle bus back to home my human resource colleagues and I discussed about what is the definition of a good or bad manager. I offered the following definition that surprised them and also myself. See if you would agree or disagree:
Good managers make from bad employees good employees.
Bad managers make from good employees bad employees.
Let me give you an example. Some years ago I was about to hire an employee and before the final decision I called his current manager and asked, how would he rate this employee’s performance from the scale 1 to 5 with 1 the highest. He said 3 to 4 the best cases. He told me the reasons about his judgment and I listen carefully. Finally, I asked him what he would recommend me to do to make this employee grade 1 by end of this year. He hesitated and said: “You do not really want to do so.” Meaning, he is hopeless, do not even try.
At the end I trusted my instinct and hired him. First, I figured out, what he is really good at. Second, I figured out, what would motivate him. Then I called him for a meeting and told him: “I see in you great potential to grow in the organization, because you always create a positive environment. When you focus on your strengths and do the things you can do best, I see for you the possibility to take over my job, when I move on.”
During the whole year I tried to reinstall his reputation by giving him responsibilities he could handle well and he liked to do. We had constant feedback sessions about how to improve the performance and the perception of other people. By end of the year, his achievements are recognized by a lot of people, including my boss. This employee got a deserved promotion.
I remember a statement by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Treat them as they are, they will become worse. Treat them as they should be, they will become better.”