This week my son broke a little piece of my heart.
Anyone with kids knows taking them to get vaccinations stinks. I took my son recently for his four-year well check, during which he got two shots. After some tears and a lollipop, we left the doctor’s office with a Band-Aid on each of his skinny legs. Not fun, but not heartbreaking.
Later that evening I went to give my son a bath. Before I went to take his Band-Aids off, I warned him it might pull his skin a little but it wouldn’t be bad. He objected, but I proceeded, assuring him “it’s OK.” My mind was three steps ahead, calculating how long he could play in the bathtub and still get to bed on time, and what else I needed to do before then for my son, the dogs, to clean the kitchen, etc. As I pulled the Band-Aids off, my poor son started screaming in terror, “Are my shots coming out mommy???? Are they coming out???” Startled out of my thoughts, I hugged him and tried to calm him down, explaining “No, no, shots don’t come back out. It’s over. It’s OK.”
Poor baby. At 4, those were the first shots he remembered getting. Having no context for a shot, all he knew was that the nurse stuck something into him and it hurt like hell. Then she covered it up with a Band-Aid. When I removed the Band-Aids, I was addressing the concerns of someone who knows what a shot is – simply whether the Band-Aid would hurt as it was pulled off. I didn’t realize, much less address, the fears of my son, which were if something was stuck into him and hurt, it was going to come back out when I removed the Band-Aid, and hurt again. For anyone who knows what a shot is or has gotten one, that’s silly. For someone who has never gotten one (that they remember), it’s terrifying.
And I realized how often we do that to others – in particular, how bosses do that to our employees. One of the biggest frustrations of bosses is their team’s resistance to new ideas and taking on new things. It could be something as “simple” as changing a form or something as major as adding a new employee or service area. We even take all kinds of classes and use all kinds of tools and worksheets to share our ideas with our team and explain it to them. But perhaps all we are doing is ripping off Band-Aids, and our team is screaming “are my shots coming out???”
Even as (or let’s be real, if) we are taking time to explain a change or idea to our team, we might be speaking in context of what WE know and have experienced. So our explanations sound perfectly sensible to us. To our team, they are waiting in fear of HOW this is going to cause them pain. Pain for a team member usually revolves around them being asked to do something, or having something taken off their responsibility list, that will make them feel out of control, resulting in a mistake. That’s not a bad thing – it’s great! I mean, at least your employee CARES about making a mistake. They don’t want to harm your client, you or themselves.
If we can keep in mind that often our employees don’t have the same experience and context as our clients or ourselves, we can speak into their understanding with the proper context. So for instance, even if your company provides services to business owners, your employees may not have ever owned a business. So provide them the insight into a business owner. Show them that world – the constant concern of cash flow, employees, capacity and customer service. Help them see what lies under the service provided and what the pain points are that you are solving. Then they can more easily understand the ideas and changes you want to implement. For example, they might better understand why a business owner client is unlikely to complete a 12-page questionnaire EVEN if the information provided will allow you to provide better service. Your employee is likely CARING enough to want everything needed to help the client. They may not understand the mindset of many business owners, who see the hour they spend on that questionnaire as an hour during which they could make $500. It will help them be excited about your ideas and help find innovations and solutions, versus feeling completely out of control, like Band-Aids are being ripped off and pain is going to ensue at any moment.
A great time to keep this in mind is during employee reviews. As you discuss your employee’s growth maps and future, be sure you are giving context and not ripping off Band-Aids. If you need help preparing for and crafting a powerful employee review that kick-starts growth on your team, schedule a call with us by clicking here and learn more about our Smart Hire Solution and how we’ll help you prepare for employee reviews.