There is only one meaningful purpose for imposing discipline on someone else: to change future behavior. That’s it. There is no other rational that suffices logic. Yet, we see it, and do it, all the time.
If our goal with discipline is not to change future actions, then what is it? To show who is in charge? To make a point? To put someone in their place? I wish I could say I’ve never stooped to such low levels of leadership, but it wouldn’t be true.
At the moment, of course, I always thought I was just leading. In retrospect, I can see how ignorant and damaging those actions were to our team and to my impact as a leader.
Why Should We Care? This is an important topic, because from the outside pruning and punishing often look identical. I mean, discipline is discipline. Even when we choose it for ourselves it’s not exactly fun or overly enjoyable. When it’s imposed on us by others, our first reaction is to immediately see it as punishment.
But, that’s not always the case. The difference is always in the purpose.
The purpose behind punishment is easy - to make you suffer. Financially, emotionally, or physically but suffering is the primary objective. There is little, to no, long term benefit that we are aware of at the time.
For pruning my initial image is always Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. He prunes his bonsai trees with almost as much care as he prunes Danielson. The care and love doesn’t change the expectations. It doesn’t make painting the fence or waxing the car any less of a duty of suffering.
It’s the relationship and understanding of the purpose behind the suffering that makes both of the examples above pruning rather than punishing.
Too often as leaders, or parents, deal out discipline without sharing the love and purpose behind it. This type of discipline is typically viewed simply as punishment.
REAL TALK - Action Steps Pruning instead of punishing is hard. It takes more time, has more risks, and involves more emotions. It requires follow-ups, messy conversations, and patience. Nonetheless, it’s at the heart of what leadership is all about. Here are a few ideas to prune rather than punish.
Make the Choice
It’s really just a choice of being transactional or transformational in your role as a leader. Transactional leaders can be very successful, punishment works to achieve results - especially short term. Transformation leaders achieve results too, sometimes a little slower, but are always more impactful long term.
Build a Relationship
There is no pruning without a relationship first. Pruning is an expression of the love and care you have for that relationship. Your investment of time and effort expresses this love. Punishment tears at the foundation of the relationship, oftentimes saying not so gently, “If you perform at this level, we’re friends .. if you don’t, I don’t know you.”
Invest the Time
Pruning takes much more time and effort than punishment. When we punish others we usually dismiss it quickly as ‘what they deserved’. If we’re pruning, we must spend time helping the person understand why they are short of the standard and help them find ways to raise their performance to meet that standard. It’s not easy … or quick.
What do you want your impact to be? As a leader, you will leave an impact. Recognizing the opportunity to choose what it will be can be transformational to both the leader and the team.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!