I talk to executives almost daily about problems they have with their employees. Employees seem to do what they want to do. In a few cases it is defiance. In most cases these problems are caused by a lack of effective leadership. Many managers have no idea how train, mentor, and motivate their people to do the job well or they complain they are too busy.

If you think you are too busy to spend the necessary time to develop your people correctly, they will learn how things are really done in your organization from someone else. Most managers and supervisors are promoted because they are usually the best employees at their specific job. Problems often arise when an employee does a good job and is promoted. The skills that made the employee great do not always translate to being an effective manager or leader. Leading and managing other people who do the job, is very different than doing the job.

A lack of management skill is a big part of the problem. I recently met with a rising tech company in Massachusetts. They had many bright young employees they recruited from Harvard, MIT, Boston College and more. I learned they had a strong focus on creating a vibrant culture. To measure their progress, they conduct a quarterly employee survey. They find much that is positive. However, the number one employee complaint is that managers have no idea what they are doing. Employees want to do a great job. They want to make a difference in what they do. They want to learn and grow. They want to have pride in their company and what they do.

Just yesterday I was with an executive team of a $50 million division of a $570 million company that is working on culture change. Their efforts have had some success but not to the degree they desired. A few of the managers actually admitted to the CEO they did not know how to implement the behavior change initiatives they had committed to. This was the main reason they were not moving forward as desired. They knew why they needed to change culture and they agreed with the initiatives. They just needed more focused direction on how and what they needed to do.

The following is a 5 step coaching process to help your employees change behavior:

The process is called I.H.O.T. or “I have observed…” is a coaching methodology to facilitate changes needed to achieve a goal or handle an issue. The coaching conversation has several steps I will outline here.

  1. Define the problematic behavior:

    “Sarah, in the past week I have observed that you have been more than 30 minutes late on three occasions.” Or, “I have asked you here to discuss…..” Avoid labels and just focus on the behavior. It is important the employee acknowledges their behavior before you move to the next step.

  2. Discuss possible causes:

    Ask open-ended questions to understand what is happening. Using, how, what, where, when, and who will help you get the information you need. Some other open-ended questions are “please explain….” or “please help me understand….” Most managers go right into solution mode when there is a problem. Instead, ask questions and listen.

  3. Discuss possible solutions:

    Do not suggest a solution. Ask your employee for possible solutions. If you give a solution and the employee does not have success with your approach, they blame you. You take away their accountability. If it is their idea, there will be greater buy-in and accountability. If their solution is acceptable to you, ask when they will make the change, “by when will you accomplish this…. etc.” If it is not acceptable, ask what else they can do until you are satisfied. Finally, ask how they would like you to help them.

  4. Agree on solution:

    Determine an implementation plan.

  5. Follow-up:

    It absolutely crucial you follow-up with the employee by the time specified for them to complete the behavior. Inspect what you expect. When they have made the change, recognize their efforts. Tell them they are doing a good job and improvement is being made. You may also follow-up before the deadline to ask them how they are doing and provide any needed support.

Most employees want to do the right thing and will appreciate a coaching approach if it is sincere and focused on helping them solve a problem or improve. If the employee is not open to coaching, they probably will not admit to the behavior problem in step 1. In this case you need to determine quickly if they are right for your organization.

Spend the time necessary to train, coach and mentor your people. It always takes less time in the long run. For those managers who claim to be so busy, what could be more important than the development and engagement of your people? If your people were doing what you hired them to do, would you have more time? Schedule time in your busy day to do the things that matter most and enjoy the positive results. If you find it hard to find more time in the day, look for a future article on how to find more time in your day and why employees don’t do what you need them to do.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Related topics: Disengagement And The “Love What You Do Myth”; Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?; How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team; One Reason A Healthy Culture Is Essential; The Power Of Accountability;

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