You’ve seen it happen to others and you may have already experienced it yourself: shocking setbacks in running your business.
They’re shocking because one day you come to work and an essential employee’s puts in his or her notice and you didn’t see it coming. A client unexpectedly cancels their contract with you and you didn’t even know they were dissatisfied. You may find out too late another was upset with service they received and your reputation has been sullied on social media.
One of the reasons this happens is, most of us have not received information or been provided approaches that help develop strong relationships based in trust
and open communication. In our work with businesses, community organizations, schools and families, we promote a leadership development and mentoring model that replaces a conventional command and control management approach because the first builds trust and engagement and the second breaks trust and creates separation.
The reason this is so important to you as a business owner is that your employees and customers (really everyone) have a psychological contract with you. Each has a set of beliefs (usually unspoken) about what they’re entitled to receive and what they’re required to give. When these assumed expectations aren’t met, and if there is insufficient trust and accountable communication, people often leave emotionally before they take physical steps. By then, any actions you take are too late. Don’t be a casualty of this phenomenon. Here are steps you can take:
- Create Authentic Teamwork: Most people maintain a level of relating to others called pseudo-community; speaking only on points of agreement and avoiding differences and conflict. Unless you are committed to going beyond this level of communication and building the trust needed to help others as well, you can expect to be blindsided.
- Be Purposeful and Values-Based: Keep what you want to cause and how you need to behave to do so, front and center. This builds courage and determination to have important conversations despite discomfort.
- Mentor Rather Than Manage: In our model, in addition to everyone receiving the same training, executives, managers and supervisors all give and receive mentoring and not just quarterly at a quick one-sided performance review. Mentoring sessions are 30-60 minutes, weekly or bi-weekly. The key point is to hold frequent, consistent sessions. Regular mentoring increases employee retention, promotes timely, joint problem solving, and results in organizational alignment.
Mentoring is making sure employees are supported in creating quality relationships, and high productivity and engagement. I remember overseeing a mentoring session. When the employee was asked about the quality of her relationships with co-workers and specifically with the manager, the employee replied, “I was sure you were going to fire me because you said I’d have a performance review at one month and it’s been almost two so I though you were unhappy with me.” This is a great example of assumptions not spoken that potentially lead to disaster.
So… Could your head be buried in the sand? Yes, even if not intentionally. And only because it’s been culturally prescribed to avoid uncomfortable conversations or the need for building trusting and accountable communications has been under-valued. If I’ve made you lift your head, keep it up. Running your business is challenging enough without adding an unexpected and avoidable disappointment. For help in creating a healthy workplace culture, please check out the surveys on our home page. I’m happy to discuss the findings with you to see what can be done.
Business executives, community leaders and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the competitive advantage of a healthy workplace. Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Her mission is to help people create lives and jobs they love. She can be reached at 314-239-4727.
As published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, August 2014