I share this from a conversation I had with a young professional employee. A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of understanding the perspective from which the person you are trying to communicate with is internalizing your message. A few days after publishing that, I was contacted by a subscriber whom shared with me an excerpt from a conversation they had with a co-worker.
In the story, their coworker was complaining about ‘millennials’ and their lack of work ethic. The coworker went on to degrade the generation for not being as committed to the organization as generations in the past as well as highlighting a few other stereotypes about ‘millennials.’
Politely, the younger worker, who is 29, replied with; “I’m a millennial, do you think I exhibit these characteristics?”
The coworker simply stated, you’re too old to be a millennial and continued down the path of complaining and stereotyping.
As the conclusion of this conversation, the young employee pointed out things from their perspective:
“It’s not our fault that the baby boomers pushed us all to go into college. It’s not our fault that we were told the only way to be successful was to become a white-collar professional. We have simply been over-educated to the point to where nobody wants to get their hands dirty because we have been told since adolescents that success comes from being in an office setting.”
From a perspective stance, I find this thought-provoking. There are many ways to utilize those few sentences in the workforce to lead, motivate, and inspire other people. The first step in doing so is to fully understand. Understand where your coworkers and employees may be coming from. To know how they are internalizing things and to act accordingly.
What perspective are you using as a leader? Many times, we view the world through the lens of our experiences and we automatically assume other people see the world in the same manner as ourselves. The reality is, that could not be further from the truth.
When we deal with others, we must be certain that we make a strong effort to view the world as they see it. In an attempt to communicate a thought or an idea, we must understand how the other person receives and processes information.
We have all seen the co-worker or employee that has a struggle in their personal life bleed over into the workplace. It is a natural thing that, as much as we try not to, still occurs with regularity. As a leader, do you view how they are processing information or do you address performance deficiencies without thought?
If a person is struggling in their marriage and is beginning to have issues at work, could a simple conversation, if not handled appropriately, lead to the employee feeling as though they are being rejected in the workplace as well as at home? Simply taking the time to analyze what is going on with an employee, and understanding them to the best of your abilities can have a significant impact on employee morale as well as productivity.
While this is one example, it can be replaced with many. Is the employee in the middle of a life change, baby on the way, a new house being built, newly promoted? The list goes on.
Bottom line, as a leader, it is your responsibility to analyze the employee’s perspective and how they will interpret information presented. It is then your duty to treat your people accordingly.
As I was sitting in the office of another department head, I started noticing things on the walls. The walls weren’t filled with the ‘I love me’ certificates or notes of achievement that is come to be expected in an office setting. His walls and bookcases were filled with what seemed to be a random assortment of items. There was a stufffed cat, a picture of a donkey, a replica WWE championship belt and various photos that were somewhat embarrassing for the leader to have on display.
I started asking about all of the clutter, the seemingly off placement of items. What began as a conversation about culture and productivity.
He had created a culture in which the employees honestly felt as they were a family. The office was less of a shrine to himself and more of a display of inside jokes and memories of great times. Everything in the office, even the weird stuffed cat, had a meaning to someone or a group of people within the group. The stories that were told along with each item made it clear to me why his department when performing at such a high level of efficiency.
There was a large amount of trust built into the workgroup. There were a vast amount of memories made into each random item and with it an emotional connection to the workgroup.
As the trust and inside jokes increased, so did the productivity. The employees felt safe and welcomed. Simply creating an environment in which the people were the value had effectively made the workgroup under his command stick out.
How do you create an environment and atmosphere that makes people stay safe? Value others and embrace their personalities. Their and your careers depend upon it.
We have all seen the leader who seems to be checked out. Seemingly aloof and uninterested in anything from the organizational level. The leader who is possibly distracted by outside superfluities of modern life; television shows, sports, personal issues, etc. Conversely, we have seen the exact opposite. We have seen the leader that seems to know a bit about everything. They are in tune with the organization and have a healthy balance between ‘being in the know’ and knowing what and when to act on accordingly.
The age-old question of higher level management is; “How do you get supervisors engaged?“
At the root of disengagement are several factors. Perhaps the supervisor is experiencing a personal stressor such as divorce, death in the family, financial strain. The list goes on. Possibly they are experiencing burnout symptoms. For the sake of this article, let’s focus on one of the most common explanations. The supervisor is either new as a supervisor or even have been supervising others for years but, never made the change mentally into supervision.
Being a supervisor and leader requires a shift in mindset from doing to getting others to do. Becoming a leader also requires the ability to think more broad scope than what a front line employee is used to doing. To think more globally, answering for others, looking at organizational consequences and being an invested party to the company is sometimes a hard thing to teach.
To teach engagement, a leader nearly needs to force the role of the supervisor. Below are three keys to getting engagement:
1 – Ask questions. Ask frequently and in-depth. In the beginning stages of developing other leaders, there is a lot of leg work and extra effort you, as the organizational leader must put in. Ensuring that items are being followed-up on and asking what the follow-through plan is an essential step in creating engagement. The idea is to get the person used to being asked a follow-up and continuing plan questions that they automatically have them in their head as their day is unfolding. As the leader begins to predict your questioning, you can start to decrease the frequency in which you ask questions.
2 – Create interaction opportunities. Find reasons for you and the new leader to interact. This can be weekly briefings over coffee to see what news they have to bring or even a daily staff meeting. Again, you are opening a line of communication. An opportunity for you to ask questions as well as them to sell their people and ideas to you.
3 – Give ownership. As often as you can, let the world see their thoughts. Let them be the owner of a solution. You are building their confidence. When an employee is confident, they will often take the proverbial ball and run with it. Let them be the leader that they need to be by empowering them at every step of the way.
Having what it takes to be in a leadership position is more than just being able to manage resources. Being a leader involves being there for people. Sometimes, being the leader that is there for people, also means having to have tough talks. Tough talks are, at times, essential to help other people grow and develop in their personal or professional development.
The most uncomfortable moments of your career will yield the most growth of those you share those moments. The tough talks you experience, if done correctly, can set a person up for a reflective look at their performance as well as the direction they are heading. Below are some tips to make the most out of an awkward conversation.
1 – Start with a goal in mind.
When you start to have your tough talk; know where you are heading with it especially if you are addressing a performance issue. Failure to do so on your part will make it look as if you are merely attacking a person. Remember, offer solutions, not just bring up problems.
2 – Be specific with examples.
It is a very frustrating thing to endure a conversation in which someone is being critical of your work, actions, or thought process but has no specific example of how you portray the deficiencies they are mentioning. If you critique someone as having a generally poor work performance, be sure to cite what makes the work product substandard.
3 – Address the issues promptly.
If you recognize an issue developing, do not let it fester. Address it quickly, do not allow it to become either acceptable performance or a bad habit. Additionally, if you are meeting with someone to discuss an issue, jump right in. Don’t sit around and circle the issue while making small talk. Chances are, the person may already know something is up, killing time adds to their anxiety.
4 – Point out good deeds.
There must be a building phase in addition to reprimanding. Surely each member of your team has some good quality about them. Either work-related or not, there is something about that individual that got them the job. Find that quality and build upon it.
5 – Develop a plan.
As a leader, it is unacceptable for you to identify performance issues, discuss them, and dismiss the employee back to their normal routine. To grow, you must develop the plan of action for them. You likely have the experience or resources to help each employee be successful. Garner input from the person having the issue and make sure there is a plan in place to rectify any problem presented before the end of the meeting.
By looking at these five tips before having a ‘tough talk’ with a member of your team, you can maximize your chances for success after the meeting. Remember, as a leader, you win with people. Please don’t allow them to fail and the organization will thrive.