Forgiveness is a good thing, but tolerating bad behavior over and over again will not get you or your organization anywhere.
In one of my coaching sessions, I listened to a leader complaining about unacceptable behavior of one of her managers. I sat back and listened for a few minutes to allow her the chance to hear herself and hopefully reflect back on what she was saying. The pause was just enough for her to make a connection. She stopped talking and said, “Oh my gosh, this is the same old thing again, isn’t it? This is just the old stuff on a new day.” Yup.
I asked what she was thinking and she said, “I’m thinking, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m at the shame on me phase.” Since shaming oneself isn’t very productive, I prodded her into discussing the next steps. She planned out how she would hold a conversation, deliver the key message and set clear expectations and consequences. When I followed up with her a few weeks later, she recapped the discussion she’d had with the manager. It was a productive session and she felt really good about it. This was truly a growth moment for this leader.
I can think of many times when I tolerated behaviors too long or gave too many chances, only to get the same results each time. Experience is a good teacher, but we need to be willing pupils. Setting expectations and holding people accountable isn’t easy, but it sure beats being fooled twice.