By Dr. Marvin Marshall
Any positive working relationship is based on trust. An environment of trust assumes both parties will be safe, and it carries with it an implicit message that you have each other’s best interests in mind. That’s why employees can accept criticism and even anger from a boss they trust. The employees know deep down the boss really means to help.
Trust is an interesting quality because once it’s lost, it’s hard to recapture. Many professional relationships gasped their last breath with the words, “I just do not trust you anymore.” Therefore, to have optimum working relationships, all parties must feel a sense of trust.
The question then is: How do you develop trust between people in the workplace? After all, when you have people from various backgrounds coming to work together, they usually don’t have a history with each other, and there’s no base of trust to begin with and grow upon. That’s the reason self-storage owners need to be proactive and create an environment of trust apparent to all.
To ensure employees make good decisions, business owners often begin to lecture. If you reflect on this, you’ll soon realize lecturing and telling your employees what to do implies you don’t have faith in their decision-making abilities. This can result in them becoming defensive. In addition, employees can lose faith in their own confidence to make decisions. If people don’t have faith in themselves, then the owner’s faith in them decreases even more, and the lecturing begins again.
Even well-intentioned lectures convey the subtle, negative message that what the employee has done is wrong or not good enough. This often results in defensiveness and resistance. All people are sensitive about being told what to do, and they often want to prove themselves in the workplace. Rather than lecture employees, consider using reflective questions such as, “What do you think about…?” “Have you thought of…?” and “Would you consider…?”
Listen to Learn
Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, is credited with the statement, “Man has one tongue but two ears that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”
Listening to learn and valuing people’s feelings and ideas is what promotes the ability of owners to effectively communicate with and influence their staff. Listen to learn means not inserting your opinion and not judging what the person says while he’s speaking. For most owners, their first reaction is to evaluate the manager from his own point of view and then approve or disapprove of what the person says. This is listening autobiographically. It shuts down the manager’s self-confidence, initiative and open communication. An easy strategy for replacing this tendency of listening autobiographically is to cultivate the habit of listening to learn.
Listening is a skill that can be improved. It starts by taking the position of a good listener. It’s getting ready to hear what’s about to be said. It’s refraining from the all too common practice of hearing a few words and then jumping in with a response. You may have experienced the feeling that arose when someone finished your sentence before you finished it. The feeling is not a positive one! When an owner interrupts a manager who’s attempting to communicate, it prompts a negative emotion. No one enjoys being interrupted when trying to make a point.