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Recently I was working with a supervisor who just wasn’t getting it. His people hated working for him, his boss was thinking of firing him or demoting him. He was in our leadership training program and yet he thought the course was stupid and refused to apply the course on the shop floor. He had been made a supervisor because of his technical skills.
Quite frankly after 10 months of trying to teach him I was almost ready to give up on him. And then a miracle happened.
What made him such a bad supervisor?
It was really a combination of some very basic things:
– He believed his employees was dumb and lazy and treated them that way – his people responded by doing as little as possible and constantly bringing him problems and challenges to solve – which stressed him out.
– He only pointed out mistakes – never anything good and as a result people made more mistakes just to get his attention – so he was working against himself
– He never asked anything personal – non work related and so the employees felt he didn’t care
– A lot of those beliefs were based on his own defensiveness – he had trouble with basic reading and writing – and basically treated people like crap so they wouldn’t discover his secret fear.
So what miracle happened to turn him around?
Two main things – one is that I told him he was not meeting expectations and then his manager had a similar discussion and told him that he needed to change in order to keep his job as a supervisor. He faced a consequence and finally decided to change.
– He began spending time talking to each person in his workgroup each day which made the morale and attitude go up.
– He began catching people doing things right – and told them – which made them more open to approaching him with problems because they knew he was less likely to lose his cool.
– He began coaching people – giving them helpful tips to do the job better and gave them positive feedback when they did.
He noticed that his departmental performance went up, the employees were happier and he was less stressed. He even noticed an improvement in his personal life because he was less defensive and more constructive.
What’s important is that it was his behaviour that changed first – then his employees improved – it turned out that he was causing the things that drove him crazy.
How can you become a better leader based on this experience?
Look at your own behaviours – how you treat people, how you talk to them – and looks for ways to become more positive and constructive. Then pay attention to how people treat you. You’ll discover that how to treat people affect how they treat you.
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