What’s This Side Of The Car For?
One day on the way to the store, my six year old son Matt said: “Dad, can I ask you something?” Yes son, you know you can ask me anything. He said: “What’s this side of the car for?” It was one of those moments I’ll never forget. Being a young father and an engineer at the time, I applied my best logic and told him “Well Matt, if it weren’t for that side of the car, this side would just fall over and crash into the concrete now wouldn’t it.” He said “No Dad, that’s not what I mean.” We both sat in silence a bit as I tried to figure out what in the world he could be talking about. He dug deep for a way to express himself. Finally, he said “I mean: what do I do over here?”
What Exactly Do I Control Anyway?
We followed that train of thought to get to the why behind the what. I had put the key in the ignition, put the car in gear, worked the steering wheel, the gas and brake pedals, the blinkers, even the radio. Meanwhile he had been riding along seemingly doing nothing. He wanted to know what his role was. He wanted to be involved in what we were doing. He wanted to make sure he was doing his part in this whole driving to the store thing. I admire my son for that. Even today as an adult, he is inquisitive and responsible, always seeking to understand what he should do to contribute.
Managers: Assume the Best – Show Them The Path
If you’ve hired the right people, they already want to do the right thing. If they seem to be just sitting still, could it be that they don’t know exactly what that side of the car is for? Here’s three top secret ways to change that:
- Create an environment that fosters discovery. Because of the employer/employee relationship, your people may be uncomfortable with asking you questions. They might feel that asking questions would make you think they don’t know what they’re doing or something. Let them know you welcome questions about success.
- Don’t wait for them to ask. Like Matt, your people may not even now what questions to ask! Don’t wait for them to take the initiative. You lead the way. Open up a dialog on your end. Make it normal to have regular, open, judgement free exchanges about mutual success.
- Create a motivation snowball. Break the big tasks down into smaller bites for them. Create clear milestones for each task and show how they contribute to the big picture. Once they get a taste of success, they will be much more motivated to take the initiative to improve and grow!