At my signal, unleash hell

At my signal, unleash hell

One of my favorite movies is Gladiator starring Russell Crowe. He plays a roman general fighting for Marcus Aurelius against the Germanic Tribes.

I love the scene where he stands with his his army facing the Germanic tribes. He sends out a messenger to negotiate a settlement so they don’t have to fight.

A few moments later, we see the enemy tribe holding the severed head of the messenger and throwing it on the ground in front of earlier in the scene. Obviously, they were rejecting the General’s attempts at peacefully resolving the conflict.

In the next scene, we see Russell Crowe giving a knowing look to his sergeant and says calmly, “At my signal, unleash hell.” This would signal the release of the rest of the troops, the catapults, the archers, the cavalry and the infantry.

That line gave me goosebumps.

What I love about this scene is how calm and composed Russell Crowe looks. That’s the kind of leader you want at the front of your army. Someone who doesn’t over-react, assesses the situation tactically, and doesn’t panic or shirk away from the threat in front of him.

Last week I came across a particularly troublesome case. One of my client’s employees was supposed to return money to the company after collecting them. However, after three weeks, it seems that the employee has now gone AWOL with the money.

My first instinct was to go on an all-out offensive and file cases left and right. However, cooler heads prevailed and we decided just Issue a memorandum respectfully asking him to return to the office and  to account for the money properly.

No response.

I decided to send a second memorandum to give him another chance to save himself.

No response

We asked some of his friends at work to do back-channeling and to encourage him to come and set the record straight at work. They said, “You have memo here at the office. Please stop by so you can clear up the records.”

To our astonishment, the employee said, “Hahaha, hayaan mo sila mag-memo hanggang magsawa sila.” To me, this was the equivalent of killing off the messenger I sent to offer a peace treaty.

At the onset, I encourage you to exhaust all possibilities for negotiation and settlement. Try to settle it peacefully, offer chances for the employee to correct the records. It’s the right thing to do.

But on the other end of the spectrum, you have to be prepared to bring the hammer down when you need to as a leader. There are just some people where negotiation will do you little good. You cannot back down when you are in the right because this will send the message that you don’t hold people accountable in your team.

Going back to this employee, I’m disappointed that he gave in to pride and haughtiness. Instead of just clearing out some accounts internally, our friend will now have to answer new cases in court and possibly an arrest warrant if the facts support it.

We’ve unleashed hell, and it’s entirely his fault. Remember that you are a leader, and your team is looking how you will react to infractions. If you are put in a situation where you have to respond, don’t hesitate to bring the hammer down.

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