Sven, a project manager for a Northwest mechanical contractor, told session 7 of the Leadership Development Lab,
“A couple of months ago, we were doing an installation at a food production facility. While I was walking my jobs one afternoon, Cody, one of the welders on my crew approached and began to complain about the trouble he was having completing a fusion weld. He felt he did not have the correct tools to accomplish the weld, which was in a tough location to access. I told him to just do it by adding rod. This is not the best way to complete the weld and have it looking perfect. I am sure my tone made it sound like I was telling him to stop complaining and just get it done. After this conversation, I decided he would be a good person to select as my ‘pearl’ [someone with whom you want to improve your relationship].
“The following week, I was on-site again and asked him to show me the difficulties he was having. We went up in the scissor lift to where he was working, and it was apparent there really were some serious obstacles to accessing the weld. I explained to him that I could now see his point of view and understood how the correct tool for this special situation would be extremely helpful. I told him to continue as we discussed before until the correct tool arrived. I could tell that he really appreciated me taking the time to understand the situation and see his point of view.
“When I saw him the next day, he was really excited to tell me that even though he still didn’t have the right tool, the welds were looking great and polishing up so nice you could barely even see them.
“The lesson I learned from this experience is that people genuinely appreciate it when I make the extra effort to see their point of view. Not only did this result in a happier crew member, he actually increased his effort to do the job as well as he could with the tools he had.
“The action I call you to take is to make the extra effort to understand your team member’s point of view.
“The benefit you will gain is a more engaged team and a better understanding of the difficulties your team faces. This will allow you to most efficiently complete your projects.”
Our job as a leader is to clear the way, get the obstacles removed, so people can do their jobs with the least amount of difficulty. As this wonderful story illustrates, even when we can’t provide all the tools needed, just showing the desire to help, showing that we understand their special challenges, can have an amazing effect and result in higher levels of heartfelt engagement.