Lords Of Discipline

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Simply sidestepping the don'ts is a major step to delivering discipline that gets results, but even more can be learned when you accentuate the positive. Turning negative behaviors around relies heavily on your own attitude. "The way to view discipline isn't as a negative but as a way to help an employee grow. Discipline is part of what any good coach does," says Turknett. Redirect your focus to helping a problem employee grow, and, instantly, what might have seemed a downer becomes a positive for both of you.

Giving your employee thoughtful, substantial input can also put a positive spin on a discipline session. "Always approach disciplining an employee with a goal in mind: What behavior do you want the employee to change and how?" urges Markovitz.

Is Tom always missing deadlines? Knowing this is a beginning--specify a few concrete instances where Tom bungled, and that's something to focus on in a discipline session. But you need to go further if you want positive results because, odds are, Tom doesn't have a clue about how to correct the problem. "Usually people don't change because they don't know how to," says Hollands. By all means, ask the employee for suggestions about how he or she expects to do better, but go into any discipline session keeping in mind your own ideas for improvement. The employee won't resent this; in fact, he'll probably be grateful and appreciative that you put in the time to come up with a prescription for greater success.

What if the employee blows his top and gets belligerent in his self-defense? "The good manager expects argument," says Hollands. It's human nature for an employee to get defensive, and a bit of venting is fine. "Give him five minutes," suggests Hollands. "Listen reflectively, then go back to your main point: `Tom, you've missed these last five deadlines, and we have to find out why and figure out how you're going to meet your future deadlines.' "

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Lords Of Discipline.

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