When an employee engages in a behavior that needs correcting, mere managers don't ask this question. They simply ignore the behavior (enablers), or come down hard (demoralizers).
But it's the first question empowered managers ask themselves. That's because empowered managers know that all problems are process-related. Empowered managers don't consider people flawed, but processes broken. Sometimes the process is a thought process (stinkin' thinkin'), but it's still a process problem.
Consider Bernie, an otherwise good employee and valuable team member. But yesterday she relabeled a blood sample she shouldn't have. The mere manager will write her up and punish the behavior, concluding Bernie is broken, or at least shows signs of brokenness. The empowered manager sits back and wonders what made her do something she knows better than to do.
- What was Bernie's thought process that allowed her to make the mistake?
- Have I been sending mixed messages?
- Have I been inconsistent in disciplining similar behaviors in others?
- Has she stopped caring about her job or performance? If so, how might I have contributed to her sudden and uncharacteristic complacency?
- What forces/stresses was she subjected to that precipitated the errant behavior?
- How can I best reinforce the though process that used to keep her from behaving in this manner?
Turning Bernie around and securing her place on your team for the long term requires interior-first soul-searching. It's the same path empowered managers take for every flawed, non-compliant, and insubordinate behavior. Whether it's gossip, surfing the web, suddenly frequent tardiness, a bad customer service incident, uncharacteristic laziness, or any other form of stinkin' thinkin', they all get the same me-first approach,
Once the full inventory of one's own possible contribution to Bernie's flawed thought process is conducted, the empowered healthcare manager addresses any valid contributions with Bernie and sets the record straight. If there are none, Bernie gets the external soul-searching question: What made you do that?
Bernie's biggest problem may not be her flawed thought process. It may be that her manager can't conduct interior-first soul-searching that is truly honest. But then, mere managers never do.