Correct People Compassionately
- Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Early in my career, I was brought in to lead an intact department. Soon I discovered a member of the team who produced significantly more errors than others. In dealing with the situation, I followed most of the "live it" steps but failed in one of them. By focusing too strongly on the needed performance and ensuring he had the needed knowledge and skills, I neglected to ask questions to uncover his thinking about the work and the errors he made. Only much later in a long, difficult process did I come to realize we had different mind-sets about the importance of accuracy. Had I opened a dialogue through questions to get his perspective, I believe the situation could have been easier and more successful for both of us.
Surface Confessions About Failures and Mistakes
Genesis opens with God's creation of the heavens and earth and His initial dealings with humankind. Adam and Eve lived in the idyllic Garden of Eden where there were only a few rules to follow—one of which they broke. Genesis 3 tells the story of their failure and how God dealt with it.
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it': Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return."
Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. . . . Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. — Genesis 2:15-17; 3:6-13, 16-19, 21, 23
Ever wonder why the all-knowing God questioned Adam and Eve about their transgression? He knew what had happened, so why didn't He just tell them what was going to happen as a result? He chose instead to ask questions to begin the process of accountability, consequences, and restoration.
When problems arise, leaders should begin with questions to solicit input and confessions from those involved. When you hand out consequences based on admissions of guilt, they are more likely to be accepted as appropriate. Also note Adam and Eve received different consequences. Discipline needs to be appropriate to a person's particular part in the problem or failure. Follow God's example, and experience more effective results when you must correct someone.
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