When to Give Second Chances and When to Cut Someone Loose

Second chances are endorsements.

Second chances are investments of personal collateral.

Second chances strengthen relationships.

Leaders – who don’t give second chances – waste potential. But give no patience to people who don’t care and don’t try.

Don’t give second chances when:

  1. Response to failure is excuse or blame.
  2. People don’t appreciate the impact of their poor performance on others. Employees who minimize poor performance don’t own the negative impact they have on teams.

Don’t give second chances to excuse-makers unless you want a culture of excuse-making.

Give second chances when:

#1. Effort was high but results disappointing.

Responsible failure earns coaching. “What will you do differently next time?”

Irresponsible failure earns confrontation.

You get what you tolerate.

Drifters deserve a kick in the pants, not opportunity to drift again.

#2. Humility is obvious.

Second chances and consequences go together. After falling short, higher accountability or more oversight may be appropriate.

  1. Are they willing to earn trust where it was broken?
  2. Are they open to greater accountability?
  3. Is the person willing to take on less responsibility?

Give second chances when you hear, “I screwed up.”

#3. Good results are normal.

#4. Failure occurred around new responsibility, but they’ve risen to new challenges in the past.

History predicts the future.

#5. When YOU’RE responsible for their failure:

When people on your team stumble, look in the mirror before casting stones.

  1. You talk, but don’t act. You taught people that deadlines don’t matter because you don’t keep deadlines, for example.
  2. You expected strength where there was weakness.
  3. You promoted someone, but didn’t provide training, mentoring, or coaching.

When you’re the reason for their poor performance:

  1. Apologize.
  2. Acknowledge what you didn’t do.
  3. Explain what you will do moving forward.
  4. Ask for suggestions.

Second chance are permission to begin again.

Leaders who don’t give second chances create cultures of fear, blame, and retribution.

When are second chances appropriate?