Today we’re sharing insight from guest blogger Karen Moscato. We hope you enjoy Karen’s wisdom and perspective.
Bernie Madoff. ABC aired a two-part series on his Ponzi scheme earlier this summer. We all know the story in which he bilked people out of their money for over 30 years. But the interesting part of the movie was the depiction where Bernie gave most of his investors a second chance at pulling out their money. He was using his “reverse” psychology to increase their trust in his abilities to make them rich. Or in many cases richer. I bet they all wish they would have taken Bernie up on that second chance!
I first met Sister Susan Kintzle, C.S.C., when I transferred from a Franciscan Community into Holy Cross. That was quite a few years ago and my journey led me out of the convent into the world as a lay woman. During a meeting which I attended, Sister Sue shared her story on how she co-founded Dismas House in South Bend. Since 1986, Dismas House has served over 900 former offenders who shared the house with over 100 college students. Dismas House provides second chances - chances at new beginnings for former offenders out of prison. They provide basic human needs and essential programs that help returning prisoners successfully reintegrate into community. How successful is this “second chance” that people receive? Only 18% have re-offended because of the care and support they receive at Dismas House.
Those two words bring joy and hope to those who receive it and for those who give it. Those who bestow it, they have hope the second chance will be rewarded with a new beginning; changed behavior for a renewed relationship. Those who receive it are ready and willing to try again. To make it better, to deepen a relationship that was on the brink of destruction.
In my former position as Chief Human Resources Officer, I was called upon many times to give employees second chances. Many times we followed steps of improvement so that separation didn’t occur. But always in those conversations there was honesty. Sharing honest feedback isn’t easy. Many times you don’t know how it will be received. I have had my share of sitting across from people who displayed all emotions. Displays of anger, hurt, crying, and shouting at the thought that change must come or the relationship of employment was in danger of ending. But even though I was delivering difficult messages, my hope was they felt cared for and loved even though behavior needed to change.
We read so many second chance stories on social media and in the news. And yet, I feel this notion is somewhat being lost in companies and in society. How many of us in business hire and actively seek ex-offenders who need a job? How many of us actively seek persons with disabilities to hire and give them a chance at sharing their values? How many of us really give honest feedback to help employees change and thus get a second chance before being let go?
Try this exercise for a couple of minutes.
- Take a sheet of paper or sit in front of your tablet/device where you can write your thoughts.
- Take a deep breath and clear your mind.
- Conjure up the people in your life that gave you a second chance. You have two minutes to write as many people’s names as you can…GO!
- Now next to the name, write the emotions you felt at the time when you received a second chance. Another two minutes…
- Lastly, write down anyone you have given a second chance to and where is the relationship now? 30 seconds for this one…
What patterns did you see? What words jump out at you? What memories came when you thought of these people who gave you a second chance?
Sometimes second chances don’t always work. People still decide to drink excessively or continue in drug addiction. People choose behaviors that are incompatible with ours. And sometimes the kindest thing you can do is let go; for you and the person.
If you find yourself in the position to give someone a second chance, either at their job or in a personal relationship, try these suggestions:
- Begin with honesty. Share how the behaviors are having a negative impact on you or the team. Be specific and be willing to share examples. There are plenty of helps in this area and one book particularly is the bible in these discussions. It is called “Crucial Conversations.” Pick up a copy!
- Actively listen. This is important because the other person has their perspective and usually can share why they persist in the behavior you are trying to change. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and acknowledge their feelings. Never negate what they are feeling; but gently move them from feelings to action. How are we going to resolve the issues?
- Work on consequences for accountability. This is crucial. Otherwise change will not occur and the relationship will stagnate. What actions can both parties agree to? What will happen if the agreement is not fulfilled?
- Lastly, timelines for checkups. How often are you both going to check in to see if the issues are dissolving and the relationship is growing? Not having follow-ups may not have lasting effects. Changing behavior is tough but through persistence, care, and honesty the success rate is high.
What’s The Risk?
Second chances are gifts we have all received in our lives at one time or another. Take a risk to share honest feedback - not hearsay or gossip, but examples in which the person can relate too is one of the best conversations you will have. Remember, you have power in choice. You can choose to give forgiveness or not. Be mindful of that power and that choice. Remember the victims of the Madoff scheme. They didn’t take their second chance it when it was offered and it cost them dearly.