leadership trainingBy John Chappelear

In my workshops on productivity and leadership, “Change the People or Change the People” is one of the most popular tips I share. It helps the attendees understand more clearly the roles and responsibilities of managers, supervisors, and executives, and the roles and responsibilities of the employees. Over the next few months I will provide a short series of articles discussing similar tips that I have developed, based on some very consistent issues, problems or challenges that appear frequently nationwide, regardless of the size of the company.

The idea behind the phrase Change the People or Change the People is that first you, as employers, must hire correctly. Then you must work to train, encourage, develop and support the people you hire so that they will perform successfully, based on your clearly defined expectations (the subject of a future article). And if you can’t get the people to change then you should change the people.

Numerous studies support the Pareto Rule of 80-20, these studies show that no matter how hard you work with employees to create positive direction, about 20 percent of the people won’t change. For a myriad of reasons they simply don’t want to learn new skills or change the way things are currently being done.

That doesn’t mean that the 80 percent are an easy fix. No, they are not. Many of them will have less than stellar attitudes or behaviors regarding the changes or the skill building you are expecting. Initially, they will be protective of the safety of “but we’ve always done it like this”. And moving them forward can be difficult, as well.

I believe that behavior and attitude are two sides of the same coin, attitude being the mental side and behavior being the physical side. Behavior is attitude acted out, if you will. It becomes ingrained in all of us, by experiences reinforced over time. If you want to make changes in behavior and attitude then you must give your staff new experiences and consistently reinforce those experiences over time.

To make attitude, behavior and eventually performance change your employees must feel safe in their environment and know that when they acknowledge a weakness or the lack of a particular skill set it will be met with a supportive solution and not embarrassment. Building trust is the first key to building better people.

One of the best trust builders when you are trying to correct or improve performance is to focus on the solution to a problem, and look to improving results by working on the problem, not attacking the person. “Can’t you tell time?” is not the most effective way to address tardiness. A simple way to see if you are on the right track is to watch the first pronoun you use, is it “you” or is it “I”. Using “You” immediately puts the other person on the defensive, and almost completely shuts down their receptivity. Using “I” helps keep the person actively involved in the conversation and will allow them the objectivity to help plan a solution with you.

Another performance enhancer is to be sure you and your employee both see the issue being addressed, as a problem. Sometimes that can be cleared right up by simply asking a yes or no question. “I am concerned because ______. Can you see why this would be a problem?” Getting the employee to agree there is a problem is crucial to finding the resolution.

After you have asked the yes or no question(s), it’s now time to get some solution input and that will come from asking open ended questions. These are questions that start with; who, when, where, what, and why, (yeah, that’s right, just like 7th grade English class). “When do you think we can resolve this issue? Where would we find the budget to spend on that idea? Who do you think would want to work on that project with you?” Opened ended questions are a powerful growth tool, because they address the issues and require the people being coached to think of a solution(s). And we all know that their solutions are going to be a lot more palatable than your solution, (even if they are the same).

If the solution requires training or additional coaching, it is made easier by the fact that the employee has already acknowledged that; (1) there is a problem, (2) they agree it is a problem, and (3) they are willing to be a part of the solution.

Now, you are very close to setting people on the right track, but you need a strong finish. Ask a series of directed question(s) that end eventually with “yes” and a commitment. A directed question is one where you know the answer you want and you are directing the questions toward that answer. After assigning a task or addressing an issue that needs work or anything else that requires a final “buy-in” always ask: Does that seem fair? Do you have enough time? Does that seem reasonable? Use questions that will result in a positive response and the commitment to move forward.

This is a simple plan to help you work through negative issues toward a positive resolution. But what do we do when people don’t respond to our help, support, encouragement, and nurturing? That’s a good question, because we all know that what we should do is ; “help them find somewhere else to become successful”. Every manager I talk with has someone who is performing below acceptable levels and yet, is still employed. Why is it that poor performers are still employed? When I finally get to the truth, I find it’s usually guilt. The manager feels guilty because he or she has not taken the necessary steps to help improve the performance of the employee.. This is why it is so important to find out the needs of your employees, involve them in the solutions, encourage them to learn new skills, and help them become more successful. Then you will know if they are in the 80% that wants to learn or the 20% that doesn’t. When you realize that you have done everything you can to help make this person develop more successfully and they are just not going along with the plan then the guilt goes away and the need to improve or remove this person becomes clear.

So that’s why I maintain, “Change the People or Change the People”

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