Getting more from your employees

Economy August 25, 2014 01:00

By Michael Heah
Special to The N

2,924 Viewed


Q: I find the people in my organisation very “soft, reserved and careful” when it comes to taking on challenging tasks or making tough decisions. It has become a habit for them to turn to me for help and inadvertently this stops them from growing in maturity. They are nice, polite and well-mannered, which are their plus points. But I want them to be a little more “outrageous” in their ways, for instance, in taking on projects entirely on their own, speaking their minds, coming up with something uncommon or extraordinary, facing up to tough customers or staff, and so forth. I have been waiting for them to grow up but in vain. This is why I do not have many leaders among them. Although I know they are loyal to me that does not sustain the organisation in the long term. What do I need to do to accelerate their growth? 
Still Waiting
A: It is difficult to comment on your leadership style but what I can say is that when people are as you describe, the leader (parent included) is either very protective or is too controlling. The consequence of this is that they become obedient and can even be dependent on their leaders. While this is good in boosting the leader’s ego, the trade-off is usually their people do not grow to be strong to face the challenges in their lives – personally and professionally. 
The Bottom Line: You need to be firm and assertive now about how you want them to be. You then create an environment with leadership practices that encourages people to take risks and experiment with their learning. This can be a weekly review where they go over what they have done, instead of keeping your door always open to them. The crux of this is to build their independence and self-sustaining behaviour that can accelerate their learning to be more enterprising people. You can also do a number of things in the workplace; for instance, provoke them to challenge your ideas, give praise whenever you notice that they are doing something original, organise a regular “Idea Conference” where they are required to come up with new ideas on improving their work unit or the organisation. All these should accelerate their growth.
Q: I have a “weird” employee who is too much a loner as he does not mix or speak much at meetings. But what makes it more “weird” is when asked of his view, he either purposely makes statements that hurt people or silly remarks to make others angry. Due to this, he is a “pain” in the workplace. I have spoken to him many times but he is still the same. I would have removed him but find this difficult because he is very good at his job. Why is he like this? What can we do to change him for the better? 
A: The bottom line in life is that we are all seeking some kind of stimulation and recognition. Stimulation is a sensory excitement of any kind that can be created that touch the “hot buttons” of the person. It is their form of motivation. This staff member seems to be deprived of these. He is therefore angry, frustrated or both. So since he cannot get hold of them, he seeks them through negative ways that will get him noticed as you have described. 
In order to make him open up and be frank about his behaviour, you will have to make him be comfortable, or you’ll face a “silent wall”. When you are able to do this, you will get the truth of what is really troubling him and it may be something very personal too. Assure him that you are here to help, and you mean it. You may be able to win his trust. However, if you cannot do it then get someone to carry it out for you. You need to exercise patience and tolerance while giving him a listening ear. 
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