Fred, shop foreman for a diesel truck repair company, told this story to session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab:
“Don is a good technician. He is well qualified to perform many different tasks. Unfortunately, his negative attitude was sabotaging his productivity. When I talked with him about why he was complaining about the work and why he was so negative, he started to open up to the root cause of his issues. He felt that people considered him to have sub-standard intelligence because of the simple, unchallenging jobs he seemed to always be given. I told him I agreed that he is well qualified for many of the complex, challenging jobs that come into the shop and that I would make a change in work allocations.
“I talked with the service manager and the other foremen about giving Don more technical jobs with positive moral support. The next job he got was a very technical warranty engine repair that required him to be on his game. I went out several times to check on him and provide positive reinforcement (‘you’re right,’ ‘good job,’ ‘looking good,’ etc.). That job went well and so have many others he has been given in the past few weeks. It is rewarding to watch his attitude, pride, and productivity improve.
“The lesson I learned from this experience is it’s possible to change an attitude if I carefully listen and endeavor to understand the other person’s point of view.
“The action I call you to take is to actively listen to people, endeavor to truly understand their point of view, and act on what you hear.
“The benefit you will gain is reliable and productive personnel who find more joy and fulfillment in their work.”
The effort to understand a difficult employee, like Fred did, is counterintuitive. It is difficult—in fact, it may be quite impossible—to see others’ points of view in the purest sense. We are bound to our own feelings and experiences. We must pay attention, show interest, and have a desire to see the other person’s point of view. The closer we come to understanding their point of view, the stronger the relationship is between us. Henry Ford said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.”
Labor, management, production, engineer- ing, credit, and sales may have different points of view. New hires who are part of the connected generation and tenured employees with limited formal education may have different points of view. Considering all of the differences that set you apart from others—character traits, talents, needs, and interests—is an important step toward the understanding needed to successfully create an engaged team. Approach each person with their own special perspective and interests on the front of your mind.