We talk with employees every day. We need them to complete tasks for their job and they need to tell us about the job they do. Seems simple enough, but why is it that there are still employees that we cannot get through to and have one team all working in the same direction? Maybe it is because you are not speaking the same language.
It is not the phrasing, but rather the lens they see your business through BEFORE you start talking that trips up a good conversation. Before you start a conversation with your employees, you need to understand what biases your employees bring to the table and how they are going to see what you have to say through that point of view. You are, after all, living in two different worlds and may never meet in the middle.
You think about your business like a prize fighter does a big fight. You plan and train for the day and know that everything you do brings you closer to your goals. From the paperwork, the inventory you account for, and even the taxes you pay – both financially and physically, you are your work. It is something more than pride that keeps you going and you expect the best from everyone you meet. It is the lens that you see your business and your life through. Often you cannot see a reason not to work as hard as you do or why anyone would live any differently.
Your employees, on the other hand, think about when they need to work and when they get to clock out. Their lens shows them how much money they bring in to the company (your company) and how much of that they get to keep. They see things in black and white. Black is the money that is coming in and white is the amount they get to keep after working hard all day long. They see other workers and calculate that you are rich off their hard work and they just get a small cut. They work – you get paid. They see when you drive up that you are in a nice car and that you have nice clothes. They know you take good care of your family and that, as your own boss, you have the time to spend with your family. They work and do not have as much to go home to. Their lens, to them, is clear since they see things this way every day.
Recently, I was speaking with an owner of a successful company and he stated he could not get his employees to get extra training and was adamant that they would call in sick, just not show, or have one of a hundred excuses to keep them from showing up. My knee-jerk response was, “You pay them don’t you? Just tell them it is mandatory.” This advice was poorly given and received.
What I should have done is find out more about the employees and why they did not want to show up. Once I asked the right question, I found out that they wasted their time in a training class in years past and did not want to repeat this. Simple. To them, they wanted to know more about the training before committing to the time required to go. Once we wrote an agenda and had a conversation about how it would help them, they all agreed to show up.
What else do you want your employees to do that they approach halfheartedly or not at all? The job never end, it just takes on new challenges.
Find the lens that they see things through by asking questions and removing your own biases and you will get the job done. Follow a few standard questions to help you see things more clearly.
Is there resistance because of time, money, or education/ training issues?
Is there prior experiences that keep them from committing?
Does the message need to come from someone else?
Have you had success discussing this issue before? What is different now?
Stop before you talk and think things through by looking at it as an employee would. Talk with them…not at them. You will find that they return the favor and explain things in terms you will understand too.