Twelve years ago, I was sitting in an orientation class at the Wal*Mart SuperCenter in Laramie, Wyoming. My wife and I had just moved to cowboy country so that I could attend technical training in auto mechanics. At 21, that was what I thought I wanted to do with my life. Weekday evenings, when my classes were over, I worked at the local Wal*Mart tire and lube bay. It was for that job that I was attending orientation.
I learned a lot in that meeting about Wal*Mart culture, and its standard operating practices. At the time, the imprint of Sam Walton’s business genius was still very visible within the company. Though he had been deceased for ten years, many of his core customer service and HR ideas were still deeply respected and carefully followed—at least at my store.
One piece of Wal*Mart culture especially caught my interest. It was called a “Decision Day.” At the time, when an employee was written up by management, it was called “coaching.” This terminology was, as I recall, about communicating that the experience was about course correction, not punishment. Usually, one or two “coaching” experiences was enough to get an employee back on the right track. But if for some reason an employee made it to his third coaching, he was given a decision day.
A decision day worked like this: the struggling employee would receive a fully paid day off from Wal*Mart. It wasn’t a vacation day. It was an opportunity for the employee to spend time “deciding” whether or not they wanted to work at Wal*Mart. It was Wal*Mart’s not-so-subtle attempt to emphasize to the employee that he or she either needed to step up their game, or step away from the job.
A decision day is a necessary crisis. It vividly asks the questions: “Do you really want this job?” and probably, more importantly, “Are you willing to do what it takes to be successful?”
One of the coolest parts of the decision day idea is that it doesn’t presuppose the outcome. For some, the day just solidified that they weren’t interested in continuing on with the company. Perhaps they had “checked out” long ago, and they just needed that final push to encourage them to resign. For others, it emphasized the fact that Wal*Mart hadn’t been the right fit for them, and it was time to find something that better suited their skill sets or schedules.
But for one group of people, it was a wake-up call. A clear message that it was time to get serious about being successful at Wal*Mart. I remember in orientation hearing the stories of successful high-level corporate employees who had been given a decision day several years previous. What a turnaround! As I said, it was a necessary crisis.
Here I am, twelve years later, needing a decision day. Perhaps you do too. I have far too many goals, tasks, and activities in my life. I spread myself too thin, and as a result, my performance in many areas is lack-luster. Here’s my plan: I’m going to take a look at the areas of my life where I’m not performing well, and I’m going to give myself a decision day. I’m going to ask myself “Do I really want/need the responsibility of this task/activity/goal?” and “Am I willing to do whatever it takes in this area to be successful?”
Decision Day question: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to succeed? Jonathan HooverClick to tweet
I fully anticipate in some areas the answer will be no. I’ll need to walk away. But in other areas, my “yes” should remind me of my need and capacity to grow, improve, and achieve. It’s the necessary crisis I need to experience meaningful success.
How about you? Are you ready for your decision day?