“You can’t see everything”

“You can’t see everything”  

That was the sage advice my dad gave me after I had been in the business full time for over five years. He gave me this advice because I had just vented about something I saw an employee doing that I felt was grounds for discipline.

My dad chuckled and continued, “What’s important when it comes to employer and employee interaction is to focus on the deal breakers. In other words, there is gray in the world but some things are always black and white. If you want to pursue ever little infraction you’ll end up with nobody to do the work and you can do all the work yourself.”

I was young and felt this statement to be unjust.

But, my dad was wiser and saw it more as the way the real world works. At least, the way he had made peace with the world at his company.

In case you’re interested, we were a union shop that had some clear guidelines but most things back then were never defined in writing. There really was no training…no clear way of doing most anything and what passed for communication at my company was either a one-way memo or a verbal warning.

It was only when the worst offenders continued in their bad behavior did we ever go through any kind of steps of discipline. And because there was nothing in writing for most policies and procedures it always ended up in arbitration or it got swept under the rug.

The only3 Deal Breakerswe did enforce each and every time with each and every person back then and to this day is:
    1. Lie
    2. Cheat
    3. Steal
And you were gone. If it wasn’t bad enough, the ramifications were worse. The good news is the union backed us up on these three points if we had documented evidence to prove our allegations were true. They, too, wanted to protect the integrity of our company, the customers and their own union members because this type of behavior put us all at risk.  

As time went on and my brothers and I gained more control of the day-to-day operations as my dad allowed us more of a say in how things were done, objective standards were put into writing in our Operations Manuals, our ongoing meetings and never-ending training. We created steps of discipline and became more willing to “see everything.”  

The reason we could do that was a growing disgust at feeling like we were hostages in our own business and the need to wear blinders was growing even more uncomfortable.  

The great George Brazil of George Brazil Plumbing once told me, “Don’t expect what you’re unwilling to inspect.” He, too, knew the value of having rules, policies and procedures and applying them consistently with each and every person at his company and that you must do as Ronald Regan once said, “Trust but verify.”  

To gain your freedom, you must also get great at recruiting, hiring, orienting, training and retaining. This is what allows you to hold people accountable to more than just lie, cheat and steal. It’s what will ultimately let you sleep at night and it’s what will build you a company that you’ll never have to limit yourself to “not seeing everything.”