Do your workers listen to you?

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As a consultant I’ve heard the phrase “They’re more likely to listen to you than us” from more business managers than I care to count.  This article will explore some of the reasons why workers don’t listen to management.

Good management is a bit like parenting:  Set your rules, stick to them and reinforce them where they aren’t adhered to.  Invite your kids to negotiate before everyone is fed up, listen to what they have to say, act on it and when they perform well praise them.  By adhering to the following you’ll maintain a healthy dialogue with your kids / workers.  You’ll show you listen to them and they’ll listen to you .  It’s really that simple for both parenting and management.

Setting expectations

If you don’t set rules, policies and expectations how can your kids / workers be expected to know what they are supposed to do?  Those expectations can change, but they mustn’t be changed arbitrarily as too many changes gives the impression that the expectations are fluid or flexible.

When you set expectations consult with those impacted.  Make sure expectations are understood and those impacted are willing to accept them. Consult with those who will be impacted by the new or changed expectation as this helps those impacted to feel part of the decision making.  Listen to any reasons why expectations can’t be met or shouldn’t be imposed.  Kids / workers may have good reason for not being comfortable with expectations.

Don’t be afraid to drop or amend an expectation where a valid point is made and make sure you attribute the change to the supplier of the feedback.  This shows you listen, learn and attributing the change shows you value the opinion and encourages people to speak up when asked, rather than just ignore something which they perceive as wrong.

Reinforce Expectations

Rules were maybe made to be broken, but if expectations have been established properly, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be adhered to.

Reinforcing expectations should always start with a question: Why didn’t you comply with it?  There maybe good reasons, but if not, you need to take action.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s removal of pocket money / bonuses, a stern talking to or just to reinforce it with some education, something has to happen to show that you stand by your expectation.  Sticking to your guns and providing clear boundaries is part of leadership.

We’ve all seen the kids in the shops being told repeatedly ‘Jessica dear, don’t do that’.  The reason the kid ignores her parents is because she knows that ignoring her parent has no consequences.  If Jessica had been sat on the ‘naughty chair’ once or twice she’d behave differently.

Do you remember the ‘naughty chair’?  Kids hated the ‘naughty chair’ just because it was labelled the ‘naughty chair’ and they were made to sit on it when they misbehaved.  Kids / workers do not like to be reprimanded, they like to be praised so let the kids / workers know if they have done well or if they need to do something differently.  Make sure the consequences of failing to meet expectations are known and followed through with.

If you don’t stand by your rules / policies it’s a sure-fire way to send the message that you aren’t serious and you don’t need to be listened to.

Listen to your kids / workers

Proper consultation involves putting forward an expectation inviting feedback, making sure the feedback is fully understood, before deciding whether to act on it or not and advising people of the outcomes.  Understanding feedback involves a lot of listening.

Good listening is vital if you want to achieve success (and you want your kids / workers to listen to you).  The best parents / leaders talk less than they listen.  A leader / parent needs to be able to take on board feedback from a range of stakeholders (wife, kids, mother-in-law, mates / workers, managers, shareholders, executive boards, interested parties) and determine the appropriate path.

The more you listen the more likely you are to receive really valuable insight.  People who feel valued make good contributions, while people who don’t feel valued often don’t make any.  It’s a two way street.  Listen to them, only talk when you have something of merit to say, show you mean what you say and then kids / workers will listen to you.

Praise compliance

As already mentioned, kids/ workers generally want to do good so it’s important you recognise good when it’s evident.  Many workers leave their jobs because they aren’t feeling valued and believe their workplace to be toxic.  Kids too disengage from dialogue with parents where they don’t feel valued.  Very few people leave work because the pay isn’t good enough.  Very few kids disengage with their parents because of a solitary incident.  Many workers cite their boss to be the reason they left, but this is usually because they felt they weren’t able to please them and healthy communications has broken down.  It’s the same with kids leaving home at an early age – they could just be the adventurous sort, but more often than not it’s because they aren’t able to please their parents.

At my kids school they hand out bits of paper to recognise good work.  You wouldn’t believe the high value kids place on that piece of paper.  The same is true of workers.  You don’t have to provide money to incentivise workers.  The best incentive is to be told you’re doing a good job, be valued in the workplace and valued people are more likely to listen to those that value them.

So how do you praise someone who isn’t meeting expectations, despite setting them, reinforcing and listening to their reasons?  You start by praising them for the what they are doing well.  Focus on trying to get them to do more of what they are good at and provide coaching in the things they’re not.

Again consultation is important – you may find there is good reason why they aren’t doing as well as they could.

It often surprises me how easily people tell me things they should be telling their boss, but don’t.  Help them to help you.


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