Hopeful Second Chances

“Thanks for agreeing to an interview,” Dan Rhodes said to Vivian McKee as he was invited into her office.  “You must really be excited by the success of your IPO.”  I’d like to talk to you about how you have grown your business.  But first, I have to tell you that’s the most beautiful jade plant I’ve ever seen.  It must be worth a fortune?”

“Funny you should start your interview with a question about my jade plant.  I’ve been interviewed a lot, but no one ever asked me about what really matters.  In fact, the jade plant is the key to my success.  Let me tell you the story.”

“I was walking down a corridor one day and I saw a jade plant had lost one of its branches.  The branch was just lying on the floor.  I’m not sure what happened to the jade plant, but I picked up the branch and took it home.  I put it in water, and it grew roots.  I planted that branch, and the result is what you see in my office.

Dan was amazed by the story, but he didn’t understand why the jade plant was the key to Vivian’s success.

“I’m a big believer in second chances.  That’s the lesson I learned from my jade tree.  For the first three years of this business, every person I hired had not succeeded at a previous job or in college.  They were second chance and sometimes third chance hires.  My job was to nurture the talent I saw in them.  My jade plant taught me a lot about developing roots, nurturing strengths and never giving up hope.

The interview continued and Dan couldn’t stop thinking about what a unique company Vivian had developed.  When he published his interview, the title was:  “Second Chance Success Story.”

Think about how many people have needed a second chance but never got the developmental nurturing that Vivian provided.  When we look at resumes or LinkedIn profiles, we look for steady progression in careers.  We set minimum GPAs for new college graduate hires.  What we are missing are the life skills to rebound from an unmet challenge. Vivian was focused on hiring those who knew failure and were open to guidance to succeed, and never gave up hope.

Second chance hires are also great mentors because they have overcome challenges that their protégés will be experiencing.  Great athletes are rarely great coaches because they had limited experience in overcoming the challenges that not so great athletes are experiencing.  The same is often true for managers.  They may be brilliant, but they may also have difficulty guiding those who lack their brilliance.

What Vivian had done was develop an organization with superior developmental managers who never gave up hope.  The nurturing that she had done with her direct reports was cascaded throughout the organization.

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“Don’t think there are no second chances.  Life always offers you a second chance … It’s called tomorrow.”  – Nicholas Sparks (Author of the Notebook)

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