Second Chances

Jenny George - 22 March 2021

One of the corporate values that I instituted when I joined Converge was “We believe in second chances”. It’s an important value to me and one that I have been pleased to see blossoming at Converge.

One “business” reason that was behind the second-chances value is that I want people in the organisation to feel free to be creative and take risks. I don’t want us to have the kind of punitive culture that stomps on anyone who makes a mistake and therefore causes everyone to be very safe and conventional in their choices and actions. To do this I think you have to be very clear that mistakes are OK and that even bad mistakes will not be punished.

Of course, mistakes in decision making are one thing. But what about when someone behaves badly towards other people. That’s not really a mistake – it’s a character issue. Does that get a second chance too?

Well – yes. In our organisation it does. Again, there’s a “business” reason behind this (if someone can turn their behaviour around then it costs way less to keep them than to have to replace them) but also a Christian reason. I believe in second chances because I believe that God is a God of second chances. Time and again, God hears the pleas of people and offers them redemption. I believe in second chances because I believe that it can be for the best for the person involved.

How does this work in practice? First, not every sort of behaviour gets a second chance. In a case that we had involving two years’ worth of fraudulent activity, I did not give that person a second chance. But also, I have never found a second chance to be effective unless the person involved knows what they are doing wrong, knows what they need to do to fix it and knows that it’s a second chance. In other words, giving someone a second chance doesn’t just happen in your head. It happens through an explicit conversation that goes something like this:

“This behaviour was unacceptable. You are creating bad relationships in the team and pulling down the productivity of the whole company by doing x, y and z. If it was a one-off then I wouldn’t be so worried but I’ve spoken to you about it before and I’m just not seeing any real change.”

“Is this a conversation that means I should look for another job?”

“Not necessarily. It’s true that it needs to change and that if it doesn’t then I think I will have to talk to you about your ongoing employment. But as a company, we believe in second chances. I want to give you a genuine second chance to change the situation and I can speak for everyone on the team when I say, they will all meet you halfway on this because they are the kind of people who want good relationships too. I am specifically looking for you to do a, b and c. Let’s meet again in a month or so to see how it’s going.”

These conversations are hard (and you’ll need help from HR with this because it is a performance management conversation that should be handled carefully). They require you to say things that will jolt the other person out of their current ways of operating and I have never found that to happen until they realised their job was on the line.

But there’s a happy ending. I have seen a number of people who have completely turned around the way they relate and are now happy and productive members of the team. Not only that, but they have reflected a couple of years after those conversations where they hit “rock-bottom” and have said how much they valued the second chance and how much they learned about themselves through the experience.

Jenny George
CEO of Converge International