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The Second “B” Is for Balance

mentor motivation May 11, 2019

By Nguyen “Tom” Griggs


In this column, I will continue using acronyms to spell out the words BLACK BELT, as they relate to teams and leadership. This month, I’ll address the second “B,” which stands for balance.

In this regard, we are discussing balancing benevolence and self–focus within your organization(s).

Benevolence is one of our tenets at TNT Jujitsu here in Houston. Our instructor, Hanshi Torey, often emphasizes the merits of being kind, but he also warns that kindness should have limits. As leaders and business owners, your profits and business development are important. Many of us, however, struggle and even lose sleep over making difficult decisions.

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with putting your fiscal and physical health first. I remember my parents having a couple of regular customers at their liquor store who always wanted a discount or favor. My parents were quite kind about it — until the day when one of these customers asked for his usual discount and my parents said no.

He insisted that they work with him, given his loyalty and “all of the business” he’d brought them. My folks again denied his request, explaining that they had to run a business. Apparently he couldn’t handle being told “no.” He revealed his ugly side, which resulted in his being banned from the store.

My parents had another experience with an employee who was constantly 10 to 15 minutes late for her shift at our motel business. She was having problems at home, so my parents gave her some latitude. They would cover her shift until she arrived.

One morning, my parents both needed to attend an important meeting and informed her in advance that she needed to be there early, if not on time. As usual, she was late, which delayed my parents’ departure. They reprimanded the employee, resulting in her angrily lashing out at them and immediately quitting. My parents had to work her shift, so neither could attend the meeting.

Now, to be fair, the young lady had life challenges that she couldn’t have been expected to overcome immediately. Life problems are common, but my parents enabled her unprofessional behavior under the guise of being kind. Had they been a little more self–focused, the employee could have become more dependable or found somewhere else to work.

How many of us have rebuked someone for acting in a way that we allowed them to? Aren’t you equally, if not more, culpable for enabling unprofessional and bad behavior? Again, I’m advocating balance, so you can decide how firm or benevolent to be with others. The standard should be goodness, fairness and consistency. Please think of benevolence as an “extra” that generally should be earned or otherwise merited.

Here are few guidelines to consider when you have qualms about how benevolent or firm you should be with someone:

  1. The person. Who is this individual to you and what is his or her role in your business? Is this person an employee, vendor or client? Factors like their age, any special challenges they are experiencing, and how important they are to you and your business should all be considered.
  2. The action. Is this person asking for a discount because they feel entitled to one, or are they struggling financially? Were they late one time because of an honest mistake, or are they chronically tardy? If he or she has done something fairly serious, then I hope you have appropriate protocols in place. But look at the action or request for what it is.
  3. Their history. How well do you know this person? How long have you known them? Do you see a pattern? Perhaps this person’s actions indicate something more troubling. Discussion and an emphasis on mutual transparency is essential. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions, even if it makes both of you uncomfortable.
  4. The impact. How will this person’s request or action impact your business? Giving a discount or an extra day off may be fine. But someone acting inappropriately while representing your business can be hazardous.

Take the time to understand the implications of someone’s request or actions. Once, an employee was arrested for shoplifting while wearing one of our fully branded cleaning aprons. The police used the phone number on our apron to let us know that the employee had been arrested.

Leaders have to work with others and make the best decisions possible. Communication, respect and trust are vital to making tough but meaningful decisions. The key is to respond with logic and appropriate emotion. But focus on creating a sense of balance.

To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people may not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Do your best, be the example and take care of yourself.


Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker in the areas of Teams, Leadership and Conflict and can be reached at [email protected]


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