When Your People Don’t Get It, It’s Not Them!

Look First to Yourself

Bob Schultek
Bob Schultek

When I answered my phone, my friend began venting his frustration about his staff.  As CEO of a mid-size manufacturing company who prides himself on his communication skills, he just couldn’t understand why his team was not reacting more proactively to his latest appeal for more initiative.

“They sit there, some staring at me and some looking down, but none of them proposes an idea.  They know the competitive pressure we’re under.  They’re bright folks.  Why don’t they get it that we need to continuously develop new ways to produce value for our customers?”

Once his emotion was exhausted, we began to discuss the circumstances that prompted this meeting.  Earlier that day, he read an article extolling the product development initiatives of a major competitor.  Shortly thereafter, the President of a key customer called to inquire what was new in my friend’s product pipeline, and he felt that his response had not created enthusiasm with the customer.  He called the meeting shortly thereafter.

“Did you describe to your team the events that had prompted you to call the meeting?” I asked. He replied that he did not, but instead started the meeting by referencing their core value about encouraging initiative and expressing concern that their new product pipeline seemed thin.  He expected them to be as ready as he was at that moment to discuss their product development process.  The gap between his expectations and their reality caused the team defensiveness that he observed.

In retrospect, he realized that he had called this meeting in reaction to his experiences that day, catching his team cold and unprepared for a productive dialogue.  By not sharing his reaction to start the meeting, he missed an opportunity to align them with his reality and ignite their passion.  Instead, his team was distracted by pondering the reason for the impromptu discussion.

In the heat of battle, you can forget to look first to yourself before challenging an associate or team.  When someone performs above your expectations, do you recognize that person for their positive contribution right then?  Or, is negative recognition for a mistake or missed opportunity more typical?     To sustain your passion and commitment, how would you want to be treated?

 Have you been clear in communicating your expectations?  How do you know?

Have you provided the rationale and resources necessary to meet those expectations?


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