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Motivational techniques from Gene Hackman


In any sports playoff or tournament, by definition, every game is a trial, because if you lose, you’re out! In the iconic movie, Hoosiers, Gene Hackman, teaches us about showing faith in your team, and your players, by stating, “After Ollie makes his second free shot”, (and then turning to Ollie says) “And you will make your second shot”. Classic! No long pep talk, no psyching him up, just 7 simple words, filling him with confidence.


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of conducting a formal trial period for an employee who has been under performing. Let’s delve into how that trial period should look and what elements should it encompass.


However, and putting all legal requirements aside, if you firmly believe this employee is so far removed from being able to successfully complete a trial, or that this employee’s attitude will never change enough for them to fit into the organization etc. then skip the trial. Firstly, it’s humiliating for anybody to be subjected to a “test” that they simply cannot pass. Secondly, and most importantly, managers need to have faith in their team that they can and will succeed. If you have doubts, chances are you are conveying that either consciously or subconsciously to your employee and surely it can impact them during a trial period. Learn from Gene Hackman and make sure you employee’s know you have the utmost confidence that they can succeed.


Here are some suggestions for formulating an effective trial period.


1, Have very clear expectations and goals from this employee. How does their work look now, and how should it look after a successful trial? What specific areas of their work need to show improvements. It’s not enough to say, “You aren’t doing a good job.”


2. Document everything, as sometimes verbal communications don’t have the same message on both sides of the conversation. When you put it in writing, it increases the chances of everyone being on the same page.


3. Have realistic expectations about how long this period needs to be. If you work in monthly project cycles for example, 2 weeks probably won’t be long enough. This is purely a subjective measure based on the company and department dynamics.


4. Once you had a start and end date, it’s important to have numerous touchpoints in the middle. It’s useless to give an employee a 6-month trial and only meet them at the end. Weekly progress reports can be beneficial for both parties.


5. And not to beat a proverbial dead horse, but be sure to conduct the trial with an open mind and a willingness to allow this person to succeed. If you are being intellectually honest, and for whatever reason don’t want this person around, a trial is not necessary.


People perform at their best when they know those around them believe in their abilities. Just ask Ollie! Offer a fair trial period to any employee you think has the ability to exceed your expectations and be sure to convey that you think they are up to the challenge!


Come to the “Leadership by movie” workshop on February 20th! Buy your ticket now!

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