You Have To Know Your Employees – #17

Urban Meyer was my favorite football coach (78W & 3 L record at Ohio State) and I loved his intensity and focus on Managing the Ohio State football Program. So when I heard that the school’s board was launching an investigation of him and placing him on paid administrative league pending recommendations for disciplinary measures, my reaction was disciplinary action for what? Evidently Coach Meyer had allowed an assistant coach to stay on staff after it was learned that the assistant coach was being accused of domestic violence.

I believed Urban was being unjustly harassed – what could he be covering up and why? Digging deeper I found out that:

Urban protected Zach Smith because Zach was part of an old boy’s network in that he was the grandson of Earle Bruce a former Ohio State head coach who had been a mentor to Urban before he died this year. Zach has worked with Meyer practically since he started coaching at Florida in 2005.

Urban went to the Athletic Director for help in covering up the 2015 incident which allowed him to retain Zach for another 3 years. Between good old boy’s network and Ohio State’s greed for not breaking their record winning streak, Urban and Gene Smith’s decision not to fire Zach in 2015 is unforgivable. Both had their own interests and not the University’s at heart.

Reflecting on my years of management, I always stressed the fact that a manager can’t just be responsible for the employee 9AM to 5PM but should be aware of the employee, their families and any conditions that could be interfering in that employees life. Many people have disagreed with me on this subject – stating that there is no way a manager should interfere in an employees’ personal life/actions. I never said that the manager has to become involved – just aware of all the matters that affect the employee.

Based on the knowledge the manager gains on the employees overall performance both at work and outside of work, he/she has must be prepared to offer help and guidance if needed, and make sure you notify the key people in HR or an immediate boss if there is any kind of inappropriate behavior in or outside of the workplace. A Manager cannot withhold this kind of knowledge from immediate and Sr. Management – he/she cannot suppress information to protect an employee.

Trying to help is the only way you are going to build trust with that employee. I would like to cite two actual examples of my personal involvement in this type of situation:

  1. As a new Regional VP, I was invited to one of my Branches to participate in an awards ceremony. I was looking forward to meeting all the employees in the Branch. When the meeting started, I noticed that a new Rep. who was receiving an award for being a top performer had a bruise on her cheek that looked like a pretty good hit had caused that. I had the Branch Manager talk to her, only to find out that the day she started making more money than her husband (Cultural Issue) is when her domestic abuse started. The Branch Manager and I met with the Rep. to offer any assistance that we could, to include counseling (Manager had notified HR and they provided several alternatives). The Rep declined any assistance, but I knew that we were about to lose an employee. We made every effort to get the Rep. all the help available, but for the next two months she simply didn’t perform up to quota expectations, and she resigned her position two months later. As manager’s I felt we had done our jobs.
  2. Shortly after I started at my position with GBC I had the training department reporting to me with a company Veteran heading up the operation. I had been there two weeks when I heard the sad news that the training manager had lost her husband after a lengthy illness. During my initial meeting with the manager, I learned that she and her husband had a large farm in Southern Illinois, and that she was fortunate to be enjoying an excellent life as a result of her husband’s excellent regard for her and the family which had kids and grand-kids. She had indicated that she and her husband were very involved with her family. Following the funeral I found the training manager sitting at her desk in a depressed mood looking at travel brochures and contemplating her future. GBC needed her talent and I needed to get her going. For the next year I kept her working every day and traveling both domestically/internationally. She was so busy creating new programs and conducting them, that she didn’t have time to reflect on the past. This manager worked in that capacity for another 20 years and contributed to the growth of the company. If all I had done was to make sure she was a 9 to 5 manager, she would have been on a cruise ship sailing around the world in a depressed mind-set, and GBC would not have experienced her “excellence”.

You may be wondering what does all this have to do with Urban Meyer the coach? Well, although Urban has not been fired his credibility has been seriously affected. He lied to the media and did not reveal the fact that the assistant coach he was forced to fire in July 2018, had shown a pattern of domestic violence going back to 2009. Urban also was asked about a 2015 case in which Urban’s wife is said to have received texts describing this domestic abuse which included photographs. Again he denied this until that last possible moment.

The Ohio State Board made a decision on 8/23: A 3 game suspension plus six weeks without pay ($877M). But the author of the book “Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Program” has also lost credibility and the trust of his players. Without trust you cannot manage, and a manager needs to be honest and involved before he/she can be trusted.

The AD should be fired right now – we will see once he serves his Suspension.

The Lesson To be Learned Know Your People – Without Trust – Management Will be Difficult.