Challenges with Managing Employees
Have you ever introduced a new policy or procedure to your staff that’s met with silent resistance or rolling eyes? In this week’s podcast, I explore some different strategies for how to handle pushback from your staff.
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One of my coaching clients was having some challenges with getting buy-in from their staff. They would implement new policies and procedures that were often met with silent resistance and neglect. My client didn’t want to be heavy-handed or punitive but they needed their employees to follow their directives.
Maybe there’s some rolling of the eyes or just body language that seems to indicate that they’re not really feeling comfortable with this new policy or procedure. The case of this client was more of an issue of sales strategies on the phone. There are certain talking points that they want them to bring up, certain sales concepts they want them to implement into the call, and they’re really sensing some pushback from the staff. This really challenges anyone’s leadership. What do you do when this is happening?
You want your employees to feel free to voice their opinion. That’s a good sign if employees feel comfortable speaking up. What do you do when you’re struggling to get them to buy-in? Perhaps you implement a new expectation and you notice that they aren’t really following through. This can make feel like they’re forcing you to be the type of leader that you don’t want to be. You have to become a heavy-handed or punitive leader. Some leaders are comfortable with saying, going forward, everyone has to do this. It’s much easier to say, “going forward I have this new idea that I’d like to implement, and just present it in a soft way, but still make it clear that it’s an expectation.” What do you do when you get pushback?
Get Buy-in on Your Mission
I think in the case of my client, you have to initially establish with your staff some core values. They have to understand what the mission of your business is. It’s a mission that they can buy into. If they really can’t buy into it, then they shouldn’t be working there. In the case of my client, they talk a lot about children reaching their full potential in their marketing. That’s an easy thing to buy into. I could hear them elaborate a little bit more on that with their staff, what that means to help children reach their full potential. Telling your staff, look, we’re not just here to teach them how to play music. Music’s just the vehicle. Our mission’s bigger than that.
Define and Share Your Core Values
Get your staff to buy into that first and continually remind them of your core values. Maybe you even make a few bullet points, four or five points, or these are our core values. This is what drives our business. This is the impact that we want to have on children. This is the impact that we want to have in the world. We’re going to do it through music lessons. Allow your staff to even brainstorm some of those ideas, to ask them, what are some other ways that you feel these music lessons can impact kids?
It’s easy to ask musicians how music’s impacted their lives, but getting everyone excited about these core values, and having an ability to articulate it into a vision or a mission statement, a statement that says “our purpose for existing is to empower children, to help them realize their full potential and provide a framework or a system for them, for them to struggle through certain challenges, to overcome obstacles and experience success.”
How to Inspire Your Employees to Embrace Change
And then as you present new ideas into your business or new procedures, new policies, you can tie it back to your core values. Whenever you introduce a new idea into your business, you’re implementing change, and it’s only natural to resist change. A new policy, a new way of doing things, it’s often met with resistance. People have their routine, they feel comfortable in their job, they feel confident in their performance, and now you’re saying, here’s this new thing that you’ve got to do now. When you introduce new ideas, one thing you can do is you can tie it back and you say, look, this ties back with our core values. We’ve talked about this before, about helping kids achieve their potential. This new expectation is going to help kids be more successful in their efforts.
In the case of my client, they’ve created a simple framework for handling sales calls. They want their employees to say the parent’s name at least once during the call and to refer to the child by name occasionally during the call. The staff has resisted this. What I would recommend for them is, before they present the idea, to say, “we really want our customers to feel like they have a personal connection with us. One great way to help form a connection with someone that you’re just meeting is to say their name once during the call. How do you feel when someone says your name? It’s a personalized conversation. We don’t want the phone call to feel like a scripted sales pitch. We want it to feel organic, and natural and a conversation that the language being shared is specific to the person, and one great way to do that is by saying their name. Going forward, I really would like to see everybody say the parents’ name once during the call and the child’s name during the call a few times. How do you guys feel about that?”
The Buck Stops With You
Even if there’s some resistance you could say you want them to feel like they’ve been heard, but at the same time, and this is a delicate balance here, at the same time, you have to assert your leadership. It’s like the coach of a football team. The coach ultimately decides, here’s the play we’re going to make, and everyone has to fall in line, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the coach. If a coach says, all right guys, in the second quarter, we’re really going to move to this more aggressive offense. The team’s thinking, yeah, but these guys are clobbering us. We need to focus more on defense, that’s what the coach said. If the team starts getting positive results from the coach’s directive, then it’s easier obviously to get buy-in.
When your staff understands what your core values are, what’s driving the business, and keeping the staff aligned with the core values, and your vision statement and your mission, and showing how new procedures, new strategies, new policies help progress that agenda; I think you’ll find that it’s much easier to get buy-in. The challenge is you want people to feel free to express themselves, to maybe object to an idea. You want them to feel free to challenge an idea, but they also have to understand at the end of the day, you call the shots. I think a really fair way to approach a situation where the staff is a little reluctant or resistant to implement a new idea is to say to them, “let’s give it 60 days. Can you commit to doing this? Can we all commit to this for 60 days? And then let’s revisit this idea.”
Give it a Test Drive
For example, in my school, I made it a requirement for teachers to invite the parents into the lesson in the final five minutes. Some teachers kind of, I could just see in their body language that they weren’t loving this idea. If I could go back in time, I mean, really at the time I was just firm about it. Then when they weren’t doing it, I would be punitive and I’d get on them about it. Hey, I told you. Remember in the meeting, I said, you have to invite the parents in, in the last five minutes. I noticed that you didn’t invite any of your parents in. I expect this of you. To say to them, let’s try it for 60 days, and get them to verbally in front of each other agree that, yes, we can commit to trying this, and then we’re going to revisit it.
Give Your Employees a Voice
In the case of my client, perhaps their staff agrees to for 60 days to say the kid’s name periodically throughout the call, and before signing off and hanging up at the end of the call to say, “Julia, it was great talking with you.” Maybe they will begin to feel that they understand the benefits of it. Of course, you have to deal with the fact if you come to the 60 day period in the staff is hating this new procedure, it’s certainly worth it to ask them why? What about it do you feel wasn’t comfortable? The most important thing is that your employees feel like they have a voice and their opinion matters. At the end of the day, you could always say to them, hey, after hearing what everyone said, I really thought long than hard about it, but I do think it’s important that this expectation and this policy stays in place, and I’m confident that you guys are going to do a great job implementing it.
Gentle Yet Firm
And then yes, you have to maybe supervise them. You have to in a gentle, yet firm way, remind them of what the expectation is when they don’t do it. When you notice them doing it, go out of your way to compliment them, tell them how much you appreciate them, how much you appreciate their effort, how it really means a lot to you. That praise goes a long way. One of the most common complaints that employees will share is that they don’t feel appreciated, they don’t feel like their efforts are noticed. Quite often is when everyone’s doing their job, you got a smooth-running ship. It’s easy to overlook that. Everyone’s doing what they’re expected to do, but don’t underestimate the value of praise in expressions of appreciation.