Employee Performance, Change & My Dad’s Decision 40 Years Ago

My dad passed away 9 years ago on February 3rd. Its hard to believe its been that long.

Over the weekend while reflecting on some memories I recalled a time in my early teens when dad had an opportunity presented to him at work.

Dad was a butcher for A&P Supermarkets and a staunch union man who served as shop steward at his store. But, I remember this one time over dinner discussing with my mom that he was offered the position of “meat manager.”

I thought that was a great honor and a great opportunity. I was so proud of him. He could be the boss of his department.

Dad wanted none of it. Dad wanted none of the extra responsibility, nor did he care enough about the extra income.

I couldn’t understand it. Who wouldn’t want to be the boss?

But, it wasn’t for him and he always had the option of staying in the position he was at. He made the decision he was most comfortable with and was able to work the 12 years or so until his retirement in the role and level he chose.

The reason this memory came back to me is I was in a conversation with a colleague about an employee on their staff who had a similar attitude to my dad.

In today’s work environment, however, its more and more challenging to allow team members to just maintain their role and responsibilities. Reason being, is that it is equally challenging to be able to maintain continual increases in salary and benefits without the employee adding value to an organization.

When I first got into this leadership coaching business and began discussing the concept of creating a ‘championship workplace culture,’ I often thought there was a place for employees who could fit a consistent role without being open to growth and development, since often athletic teams have role players to fill out their rosters that provide huge value to their teams.

But, as we move deeper into the 21st century with the rate of technological evolution and globalization, I’m not sure business leaders will able to compete, or can even afford to, have team members that can not adapt to the changing needs in the work environment.

Discussions with clients and prospects in recent years often involve issues around raising the bar on employee performance through encouraging them to embrace “change.”

The bigger challenge isn’t so much embracing “change” as it is identifying what this enhanced role and responsibilities could look like that would offer higher value back to the organization, and then identifying whether the employee has the attitude, skills and talents to meet those new job requirements.

In the mid-80s Dad was given the option of stepping up or staying put. I’m not sure many employees in the second decade of the 21st Century are going to have that flexibility much longer.

Anyway, back in December I wrote a blog post with a model to help business leaders assess their team members’ adaptability to change (you can read that blog here).

If this is an issue for your organization, and you’d like to raise the bar on employee performance by helping them navigate change at whatever level it is manifesting, click this link to investigate whether a private, 1:1 Leadership Strategy Session may make sense for you.

Thanks for allowing me to remember my dad this week!

‘Til next time, make it a great week,

skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results


9 thoughts on “Employee Performance, Change & My Dad’s Decision 40 Years Ago

  1. Jeffrey B. Senft says:

    I’m sure your dad wanted to stay a butcher, but I wonder if maybe part of it could have been that, as a staunch union supporter, the position of manager of the meat dept. might have been a non-union administrative managerial position that he would have had to give up his union status for.

  2. Christian W. Meyer says:

    I concur with Jeff Senft as 1 option. Often in our desire to move employees up the ladder, whether if be for cost or other reasons, we as employers forget that not everyone is motivated by title and fifty cents. Some people really like being carpenters. Often when we push a really good carpenter to become a foreman we loose a good carpenter, the production and excellence they bring to their job, and find out that we don’t have a good foreman either as they were never trained to do the new job or really don’t want to take on the additional responsibility.

  3. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Chris & Jeff,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and being inspired to contribute to the discussion here.
    I agree my dad probably didn’t want to lose that union connection and totally shifted his position away from his roots.
    Additionally, Chris, you make a great point about moving great skilled personnel into management (or foreman) roles and lose a skilled person in the field and move them into a position they are not comfortable with, don’t have the skills for, nor even want to do it, but we force them into it. This also happens in white collar industries as well where the best producing sales person becomes the sales manager, taking the best producer out of the field.

    The reason I brought this issue up, and maybe my dad’s situation wasn’t the best analogy is that I’m having a lot of discussions recently with leaders in industry’s where employees who were traditionally meant for a strictly service role, such as bank tellers or insurance CSRs are now being asked to do more suggestive, recommendation sellers and many have trouble making the shift, but those industries are starting to move in that direction due to greater competition and a need to gain more wallet share of a customer.

    In larger change initiatives in business, resistance can be a huge impediment and we need to be cognizant of who our people are, what they aspire to or do not aspire to, and see if the attitude, skill and talent level they bring to the organization is going to still be a fit in the future, and who may be willing to step up in a new way and take on a challenge that allows them to bring even more value to an organization.

    Thanks, again, guys, for adding to the value, here!

  4. Daniel Schmitt says:

    It can be just as easy to get stale and not improve personal job performance. Working with team members can be a real battle between getting the job done and coaching them to improve performance so if we’re not improving ourselves we will find it difficult to improve our team.

    A&P WEO!

  5. Gordon McAleer says:

    Skip, this is a touching story about your dad. Our parents leave us important lessons in life. My experience in hospital administration is that often the best nurse or lab tech or maintenance mechanic would be promoted to supervisor. Without proper leadership training and a careful assessment of the candidate’s potential to lead, the results of a successful promotion were hit ot miss.

  6. Jan Prinsloo says:

    I cannot agree more. Sometimes we want to promote to retain the employee not understanding the impact. Not all want to become a foreman. Their impact as an artisan is more valued than the possible career mistake to become a foreman.
    Well done to your Dad Skip, he stuck to his believes and values.
    Jan Prinsloo

  7. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Absolutely, Daniel, thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  8. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, and I would add mostly “miss” based on my experience! Even those that have the potential to lead and the personality to do it need development and refinement to do it effectively that so many companies fail to invest in.

  9. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for your comment and reinforcing my dad’s decision. For many years I could never understand it and just thought he was taking the easy way out, when in reality he knew his strengths and what he enjoyed doing making his role a great fit personally and professionally.

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