Ever found yourself grinding your teeth over a team member's flaws, blind to what they excel at? That's the cliffhanger we tackle with a tale of transformation that began with an exasperated manager and an employee's untapped potential. Our conversation pivots on a singular, powerful question that reframes a common workplace conundrum: "What does the employee do well?"
This pivot from frustration to opportunity is a game-changer, and we unfold how this simple query led to a vital shift in leadership perspective and team dynamics.
Tune in as we reveal the story behind an employee's journey from underperformance to becoming a beacon of expertise, all spurred by a strategic approach inspired by insights from The Expertise Economy by Kelly Palmer. This story is an eye-opener that illustrates the profound impact of nurturing strengths within our teams. We're not just recounting a manager's change of heart; we're discussing the ripple effect that embracing each team member's unique skill set can have on the entire workplace atmosphere.
Let me share with you something that happened at a client site.
I was talking to a manager who was really frustrated. He kept talking about one of his employees how she doesn't do this, doesn't do that, she doesn't show up on time, and he's just exasperated. I smiled at him and I asked, "Do you mind if I ask you an off-the-wall question?" He agreed and I said, "Take a deep breath."
His deep breath was terrible. It was like a half-sigh, half-whine. He was so in tune with her faults.
I then said, "I'm going to ask you a question and you're going to think it's crazy, and when I ask you the question, I want you to answer it as honestly as you can." He said okay, and I said, "Take another deep breath."
He replied, "Tim, this is a little weird."
I said, "I think it's very weird."
We started to laugh and I asked him to take another deep breath, and I wanted him to be as calm as he could before I asked my next question.
"What does she do really well?"
And he sat there. He paused and then gave a knee-jerk, triggered reaction, "Well, I don't know, not much."
I said, "Take another deep breath, honestly. What does she do really well?"
"Well, okay, if I have to, she knows our equipment really well. She's been here a long time."
Then I asked, "How have you leveraged that strength?"
"Why would I?" he said.
"No, no, no, don't rebuttal me. I want you to think about the question: how have you utilized that strength?"
He admitted he didn't think he had.
What if we tried a different tactic?
He went back into her faults. She's always late, she's frustrating, doesn't work well with others, and I get it. I was wondering if she was looking for something more or if she was just stagnant. And his conversation with her was not getting anywhere. So, what did he have to lose?
"Probably nothing," he said.
I suggested he try this approach. For the next four weeks, I wanted him to sit down with her and ask her to mentor a new employee under one condition: she's overly friendly and enjoyable, and we need some internal experts to really help out. I urged him to read this book called The Expertise Economy by Kelly Palmer, and told him he had to look at this situation from a different perspective because all he was doing was raising his blood pressure.
Within 5-6 weeks, he calls me and says, "You're not going to believe this, she's a different person."
When people say that to me, I always laugh. She's not a different person. What we drew out of her is what she chose to keep suppressed. When you leverage people's strengths, it doesn't work all the time, yet it does work most of the time.
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