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By Rob Wolff, Senior Consultant

How many times have you become frustrated or aggravated because of a decision that an employee did or didn’t make?  Despite the fact that you’ve worked hard to lead by example and show your employees (via your actions) how to conduct themselves, they still go down a path that makes absolutely no sense to you, and that you certainly wouldn’t have gone down if you were in their shoes.

Well, I have some good news and bad news.  The bad news is that those bad decisions are likely your fault. The good news is that you can do something about it.

Role Reminder

Don’t think I’m pointing fingers here.  I’ve found myself frustrated on numerous occasions because people on my team were acting in ways that were contrary to the example that I thought I was very clearly demonstrating. I’ve learned that it’s unrealistic to expect your team to learn about what they should and shouldn’t do through osmosis.  While it’s certainly important to set a positive example, your team can’t possibly simply intuit what they should be doing in a wide variety of situations just because of what they observe in you. There are too many different situations that can arise, and too many different ways of perceiving what you do for that to be effective.  Add to that the fact that you can’t possibly spend all day with every employee, and it becomes clear why there’s a need – make that an obligation – to teach and coach your employees on what they should and shouldn’t do.

As managers and leaders, it’s our responsibility to teach.  By definition, teaching is an action that requires you to act with intent and purpose. You need to determine what you want your team to do, and you need to help them understand how and why to behave that way. If you want your team to get back to people quickly, simply hoping that they see and acknowledge that you do it, and therefore it must be important, isn’t a solid strategy for success. Too many leaders fall into the trap of being the MVP of Fighting Fires or Closing Big Sales Deals instead of embracing the opportunity to teach others to do those things effectively so that it can happen at scale.

It’s Easier Than You Think

When I have these conversations with business leaders, the immediate response is that “I’m way to busy to now add “teacher” to my many roles and job responsibilities. I don’t have time to get things done as it is, and you want me to now do more?”  First, recognize the power of having 5-10 MVP’s of Fire Fighting or Closing Big Sales instead of only you. Figure out how to teach effectively, and you’ll end up with more time rather than less. Strategic thinking and planning can now become a reality instead of an aspiration!

As many of you know, a key driver of the Fundamentals System is developing and employing Rituals – practices or behaviors that occur over and over again to the point that they become habits.  Specifically, we work with our clients to identify practices/moments that occur each and every week to teach and review performance-critical behaviors.  These teaching moments are generally 2-5 minute windows that occur throughout the week, as opposed to an extra hour or two of meetings that you have to find time for.  These short intervals of practice offer the opportunity to teach and reinforce what is truly important, and they do it in a way that doesn’t create a burden.

The other way that the Fundamentals System helps support teaching is through providing a common language that describes with great clarity, which behaviors each and every employee should be engaged in.  Things like “Focus on Solutions”, “Honor Commitments”, and “Walk in your Patients’ Shoes” instruct and remind your employees what’s expected of them and what they can expect of others.

With this common language in place, it then becomes a matter of leveraging every situation to teach an employee something. When an employee is aggravated and obviously stressed about an unexpected problem impacting a project, rather than simply offering a fix, it becomes an opportunity to discus the value of “Focusing on Solutions”.  A raw materials component shortage can be used to reinforce the concept of “Honoring Commitments”, and a short-tempered patient can be the opportunity to revisit why it’s so important to remember to “Walk in your Patients’ Shoes” instead of allowing him to get under your skin.

What your employees do, and how they behave, is to a very large extent a reflection on what you’ve taken the time to teach and coach them to do. Being a teacher doesn’t require a ton of extra time and effort – it merely requires a system – like the Fundamentals System – to help identify what you want to teach and to provide a framework in which to teach it.

If you\’d like to learn more about how you can enhance your ability to teach and coach your team, shoot us an email, give us a call, or check out David Friedman\’s latest book, Culture by Design.

Join us at this year\’s Culture Summit, October 10, 11, 12 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead.