Do you know any managers who have made these types of comments?: “Why are my people so lazy?” or “I’ve got to watch my people like a hawk!” or “If I had more people like (insert name of superstar employee here), then our customer service scores would shoot through the roof!” Perhaps you have made comments like these – or at least understand where the sentiment comes from…
I recently delivered a presentation during which I made a distinction between the execution of mandatory job functions (I.e., the duties and tasks associated with one’s job role) and the demonstration of voluntary customer service behaviors (E.g., smiling, expressing genuine interest, adding energy to one’s voice, etc.). Afterward, I was approached by a manager who seemed unconvinced, asking, “How can you make people demonstrate voluntary behaviors?”
My response was that, although you can’t make employees demonstrate behaviors that are voluntary, elective, and discretionary, you can inspire them to follow your example. And how do you do that? You start by establishing trust.
IMPORTANT SIDEBAR: Most people see the word “trust” and reflect on its literal definition: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. But today, I’d like you to consider another definition of trust: the degree of openness, positive intent, and past history that exists between two people in a relationship.
If a manager is aloof, guarded, or standoffish, she will not engender openness. If she has a reputation for selfishness, maintaining a hidden agenda, or having ulterior motives, then she will undermine positive intent. And if she is new to the operation, then she will lack past history with employees, which cannot be manufactured – only cultivated over time.
In summary, she will lack trust and credibility with her peers and subordinates and may find herself repeating comments like these out of frustration: “Why are my people so lazy?” or “I’ve got to watch my people like a hawk!” or “If I had more people like (insert name of superstar employee here), then our customer service scores would shoot through the roof!”
So, start by establishing trust. Be open to feedback, express genuine interest in employees and their families, hobbies, and interests outside of work. Keep the well being of your people in mind as you make decisions that will affect them. Over time, peers and subordinates will see evidence of your consistency. (And, believe me, they’re watching.)
This will help to establish the credibility and trust you will need to inspire others through your personal example to achieve their potential at work, regardless of whether it pertains to executing mandatory job functions or demonstrating voluntary customer service behaviors.
Illustration by Aaron McKissen.