The “I say .. they do” myth (Part 1)

One of the great causes of dysfunction and frustration  in the workplace is the huge gap between “I say” and “They do”.

We’re making a big mistake when we believe that just because people nod their heads up and down when we ask them to do something new or different that they’ll actually do it. But I don’t feel it’s because our people don’t want to perform. I believe the overwhelming majority of employees want to do a good job. They want to contribute to the success of the company. And most employees even want to please the boss! The bottleneck here is with the business owner.

Small business owners typically are not the most patient or communicative people in the world. So, when we give a directive to an employee and it’s not carried out, frustration and missed opportunities frequently follow.

This week and in a future post I’ll address a few of the underlying causes of the bottleneck between what we ask for and what actually gets done in our companies.

Different learning styles. My learning style is that of a “general” learner. In other words when someone explains something to me, I prefer general directions without too many details. I learn by trial and error and value creativity.

By contrast the employee I’m talking with may be a “specific” learner. He may want the information I’m presenting in a structured format with specific directions. So when I ask him to perform a task he may need far more details than I’m giving him. My “specific learner” may even need far more details than I’m even aware he needs.

So, if I don’t recognize this employee’s communication (learning) style, then every time I ask him to do something (even though he may want to do it) he walks away in frustration because I haven’t given him enough detail for him to be sure what the next step is.

Some time ago I was explaining to a client how to introduce a new document to his people. We reviewed the document; I outlined how to present it to his people; I even gave him the words to use. In my mind I thought he was good to go. But, he disagreed. My client strongly felt I had only given him an outline. He simply needed more details. It wasn’t until we had worked through the details of who should be in the meeting; discussed in detail each point of the document, and answered several potential questions he might get asked that he felt comfortable. That was a big lesson for me since I’m a “general” learner.

Lack of confidence. Perhaps the request I’m asking of an employee would require him to stretch far outside his comfort zone. Or it may require him to accept a level of confidence in his own abilities that is way beyond his ability to do so. Although I may feel he’s perfectly capable of accomplishing the task I’m requesting, he doesn’t.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you need some help interviewing potential candidates for a job. So you ask your office manager to perform the first interview. Although you may have conducted dozens of interviews in the past and feel it’s a fairly routine task that she’s more than capable of performing, she may feel overwhelmed never having done that. The challenge for you is to recognize this and address her lack of confidence with additional training/encouragement/support. And this requires communication, understanding and most of all- patience.

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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