Most employers on the hunt for new recruits are looking for someone with a “can-do” attitude. What employer wouldn’t want to have that kind of employee? And for that matter, what employee wouldn’t want to have that kind of attitude? The problem is that most of us don’t actually have that kind of attitude 24/7, and it’s very hard to fake.
A can-do attitude is normally something that is inspired, not something that spontaneously springs up out of a select few. Hoping to find the perfect employee with a perfect attitude and resume may not be all that efficient. Instead of starting over from scratch, try working with what you have. So how can you, as an employer, begin to cultivate and inspire that kind of attitude in your workplace? In a few words: productive & open communication.
Let’s explore just how great communication inspires employees who want to bring their A-game to work with them daily.
The Cog in a Machine
In boat races, you normally have eight Rowers and one Coxswain. The eight Rowers are the muscle and sit facing backward. The Coxswain sits at the back of the boat facing forward. His job is to keep his eye on the other boats and bark out instructions to his teammates. He keeps his eye on the big picture and orders the rowers to adjust accordingly. The rowers obey without question.
What makes this system work is communication. The Coxswain is in a position to be able to see which way the boat is headed, and from there he is in a position to encourage or correct his teammates. If the Rowers don’t know what is happening, they have absolutely nothing to motivate them.
When a rower is not being told how far behind the next boat he is, or how far till the finish line, his mind will begin to focus on the single repetitive action of pulling the oar out of the water, pushing it forward, and then plunging it back into the water. His movements will begin to slow as his mind fixates on the burning in his arms and the numbness in his fingers.
Where You Come In
Great communication is essential if you want to keep your employees working hard, excited about what they are doing. Communicate clearly where they are currently, and what they are working toward. Inspire them. If you leave your employees to find their own motivation, they will stop feeling like important members of the team and more like meaningless cogs in a machine, like the Rower lacking direction from his Coxwain. If they don’t see a finish line, then there is no reason for them to work hard, or efficiently, or even work for you at all
The difference between a rowing team and a business is that communication goes both ways. Commands cannot just be barked out, objections to those commands need to be heard. You can’t treat your employees like a doormat, and expect them to not feel like one.
Sometimes the term “open communication” can have a negative connotation. For instance, many people think that a company that promotes open communication is encouraging employees to feel comfortable talking back to their boss, or complaining loudly about new company policies. Obviously, you want an environment that allows for negative feedback, but that shouldn’t be the norm. Open communication should mean that employees are encouraged to take ownership of the company and propose better solutions to the problems they encounter.
Inspire Productive Open Communication
So how do you do that? One way is to set up incentives for employees to troubleshoot on their own. Tell them that you are interested in hearing their ideas. If an employee figures out how to get a job done with ten nails in three minutes, instead of thirty-five nails in eight minutes, reward them. Maybe it’s public praise, maybe it’s a monetary incentive, but make sure they know you are interested in hearing their ideas, and you are willing to adopt their ideas if they are worth adopting. Remember, they are the ones out in the field doing the heavy lifting. They often have a very different perspective on a project than you do.
Communicate Some More
One of the easiest and most important ways of showing your employees that you are looking out for their best interests is to communicate obstacles and difficulties before they hit. If your business is falling on hard times and needs to cut back on some things, communicate that. And communicate why that is. People are much more patient and understanding when they see that a bad situation is outside your control. Tell them that the next couple of months are going to be hard, don’t let them find that out once the hard time hits. Give them time to prepare.
From an employee’s perspective, your job as a boss should be partly that of a cheerleader. Like any relationship, the relationship between an employer and employee can’t function unless its foundation is built on good communication. Your job is to motivate those who are looking down and can’t see the view. They are dragging themselves through the dirt, and it is very easy to get bogged down, forget what the goal is, and give up. They can only see the trees, and you can only see the forest. You can see the company’s long-term trajectory; they see the daily trials.
Your employees will know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. And when they have a clear vision and know you understand their concerns, they’ll be truly inspired.