Monday, September 18, 2000

The Success Coach

Questions may uncover employee's enthusiasm

By Michael A. Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: I was a young adult in the '60s so I can appreciate someone being mellow. But Trevor, a new employee in my department, takes mellowness to such an extreme that it is affecting the team's morale.

        I manage the tax accounting department for a large international company. We have very seasoned professionals. Trevor's credentials are good for someone in his mid-20s, but people complain about him being too laid-back.

        I know he is bright and cares about his work, but he doesn't project that to the rest of the team. He gets his work done, but there just doesn't seem to be any spark in him. How can I make him project enthusiasm?

        Answer: The first thing you have to do is decide whether you have a performance issue or a generational culture gap. You say he gets his work done, he cares about doing good work and he knows his job. Sounds like a pretty good employee to me.

        Of course, even if he's doing his work, there could be problems with his mellowness. Is the team spending time complaining about Trevor when they should be discussing work issues? Is he in danger of being passed over for promotions or better assignments because people feel he's not “high-energy?” Does Trevor care about that?

        I would sit down with Trevor on two occasions for very different conversations:

        1. Conduct an “inner-view.” While most employers do a good job at assessing their recruits' skills and talents in an interview, we often leave it there and forget we are hiring the complete person. You need to get inside Trevor's head to see what motivates him.

        Ask questions such as:

        • Where do you see yourself in five years?

        • What is your favorite pastime?

        • If you won the lottery, what would you do with your life?

        • What was your favorite college course?

        • Why did you go into accounting?

        You get the idea. You're trying to discover what will ignite the spark in Trevor's heart while possibly gaining some insight into why he is so mellow.

        I once did this with an employee who was downright boring; Fred never showed any excitement about anything, even though he was pursuing a doctorate in geography and had two beautiful children.

        I found out that when Fred was 10 years old, he was taken away from his mentally ill mother and raised in a series of foster homes. He was scared to show too much emotion because he equated emotionalism with mental illness.

        Following that, I could see the signs of his enthusiasm — the picture on his desk, the slight smile, etc. I just needed to see the world through his eyes.

        2. Explain company politics. Every company has politics, and Trevor may not know that he's being cast in a bad light in the political arena.

        Explain to him how he's perceived and what it might mean for his future. Emphasize that he doesn't have to change his personality to keep his job, but that he might find work more fulfilling and his co-workers more friendly if he made a few cosmetic changes in his persona.

        Remember that if he doesn't want to change, you can't make him.

        With the information gained from these conversations, you then can help your department run smoother. You can find projects that enthuse Trevor and you can communicate to the team how important Trevor's role is. At the same time, Trevor will have accountability for his actions.



Words of wisdom from a marketing maven
Change will change things
Job means more than a paycheck
Focus on the big picture
Worker's comp seminars offered
Promotions & new on the job
- The Success Coach
No myth: It's tough to keep workers