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 others best interests in mind. Thats 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 its lost, its 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 dont have a history with each other, and theres no base of trust to begin with and grow upon. Thats 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, youll soon realize lecturing and telling your employees what to do implies you dont 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 dont have faith in themselves, then the owners 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 peoples 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 hes 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 managers 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. Its getting ready to hear whats about to be said. Its 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 whos attempting to communicate, it prompts a negative emotion. No one enjoys being interrupted when trying to make a point.
Listening in anticipation of what an employee will say is another habit to break. Listening in anticipation encourages interruptions. All people want to be acknowledged and dont wish to feel that you know whats about to be said. Interrupting is an indication that you dont care about hearing the other persons viewpoint as much as your own.
An employer who listens well acknowledges his employees feelings and opinions. Yes, zipping the lip is extremely difficult for most self-storage owners, but its the surest way to improve communication and build trust. Remember, no great insight ever enters the mind through an open mouth. Its important to let people know that youre willing to listen, even though it may not result in agreement.
A simple Talk to me about it is an effective start to dialogue. Just use the most effective sales principle: Inquiry precedes advocacy. In other words, listen before you talk. When you feel a temptation to interrupt, redirect that impulse by thinking of the following question: Will I be more effective if I listen first?
Many people often say, If I want something done right, I have to do it myself. Yet effective self-storage owners know that delegation of tasks is essential for building trust in the workplace. When you hold onto tasks and dont delegate, you deprive your managers of an opportunity to advance their skills. Accept the fact that growth comes through struggle. Babying your employees hinders their professional development and implies you dont have faith in them. Focus on treating your staff as if they are who, how and what you would like them to be. Treating people as if they are responsible and empowered increases their chances of becoming so.
Once the employee completes a task, the objective should be to focus on progress rather than perfection. If the persons result doesnt meet your expectations, you can still find something positive to comment on while helping the employee understand the initial expectations. This is far more effective than comments that foster guilt or a sense of failure. A positive approach prompts an incentive for the taskin contrast to criticizing, which provides a disincentive.
Remember: There isnt any empowerment more effective than self-empowerment. Because being positive is so enabling, its best to displace thoughts and communications that are destructive. Continually ask yourself how what you want to communicate can be put in a positive way. For example, saying, You are bad tempered, has the same meaning as, You need to work on controlling your temper. However, the first labels the person, whereas the second enables the person.
People change more by building on their strengths and aptitudes than by working on their weaknesses. This doesnt mean that an area of weakness should not be worked on, but it does mean an owners emphasis should be on what the manager can do, rather than on what the manager cannot do. The simple belief that something can be done is the spark that ignites the brain to act.
Without trust in the workplace, communication and teamwork will erode. Additionally, morale will decrease while turnover will rise. However, by using these three strategies you can build your employees trust in management, thereby making their workplace an environment filled with innovation, creativity and, ultimately, higher profit for all.
Dr. Marvin Marshall, an educator, writer and lecturer, is widely known for his programs on discipline and learning. His approach stemmed from acquiring knowledge about youth as a parent; a recreation director and camp counselor; a classroom teacher and school counselor; an elementary and high school principal; district director of education; and as a certificate holder from the William Glasser Institute. For more information, visit www.marvinmarshall.com .