Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Get Your Employees to “Get It”

There are several "its" employees need to get if they wish to succeed in the workplace. And every manager wishes his or her employees would not only get "it", but also do "it." This article helps you figure "it" out so you can be successful at work.

Almost everyone who knows me knows I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. When I was a Scoutmaster I had charge of almost thirty 12-13-year-old boys. I was tasked with nurturing and molding their young minds to help them become better human beings. I took my role very seriously and tried to magnify my calling to the best of my ability.

One night, while we were sitting around the campfire at one of our monthly campouts, I asked my boys this open-ended question: “At what age do people typically tend to get it?” I didn’t explain what I meant by “it.” I wanted to see if they, themselves, got it.

Wisely, the boys said there is no specific age when people get it. Some people, they concluded, never get it. They also suggested that some people get it at an early age, while others only catch on late in their life. They rightly surmised that some people may only get it after a life changing or significant emotional experience caused caused them to reflect upon their life.

I then asked: “Who do you feel are the happiest people in this life – those who get it, or those who don’t?” They all agreed that people who get it are better off than those who don’t get it. Those who don't get it, they said, typically struggle in life.

Finally, I asked these highly astute young men to tell me what the “its” are in life that people need to get if they want to be happy.

After a very interesting philosophical discussion they concluded there is an “it” in every element of life. There is an “it” in school; and those students who figure it out do better scholastically than those who struggle or rebel against “it.” They said there is an “it” at home and in the family; and those families who know it and do it have a happy home and loving family, while those who struggle or rebel against the “it” of healthy family relationships have problems in their home. They also assumed there must be an “it” at work that, when understood and adhered to, leads to a happy and successful career.  


As a manager, you’re in an excellent position to help your employees to “get it.” The main purpose of identifying what you want from your employees is to help them to get the major “it” at work – the reason why they exist as an employee. The sooner an employee gets it, the better off he or she will be. Those workers who get it go far in their career – and in life – while those who don’t get it generally struggle until they figure it out.

There are several key things every employee needs to understand if they want to get ahead in the work world. These things collectively comprise the “it” that every manager hopes his or her employees will get, because once an employee does get it the manager doesn’t have to manage that employee as closely as those workers who don’t get it.  


The “it” of business comprises what I call the major premise of work. If an employee doesn’t get the major premise, she will have an even harder time grasping the subtle nuances at work. If, however, she grasps the big picture and understands why she exists as an employee, she is more likely to successfully fulfill her role and win at work.

Many employees struggle because they are confused about why they exist as an employee. They believe they were hired to serve the customer, produce a product, accomplish goals, or perform the duties of the  job. Some less dedicated employees falsely believe they are only at work to earn a paycheck.

But every employee was hired for two primary reasons: Employees exist to increase revenue and/or to reduce costs in order to maximize the profitability of their employer. Everything else that an employee does is a means to these two ends. Every employee exists to either drive greater revenue or to control or eliminate costs in order to improve the company’s bottom-line. This is the major premise!

Once an employee accepts that he was hired to increase revenue or reduce costs, he can focus his energy and effort toward that end. He can prioritize his work and channel his performance toward maximizing profits, rather than merely accomplishing tasks. All job duties and responsibilities that don’t result in either generating revenue or controlling costs should be revised or eliminated. Everything that matters in the workplace either drives revenue or reduces costs. Everything else is an appendage to these two things.

Employees who successfully deliver this “it” of increasing revenue or reducing costs greatly increase their value to the organization. This is another major premise: Valuable employees usually reap the rewards of their value. Good employees seldom lose their job. During depressed economic times, when cost-cutting layoffs occur, employees and departments with the least perceived value are usually the first to be let go. Consequently, it always is in the best interest of an employee to understand and commit to the major premise of their organization by doing all they can to increase revenue, reduce costs, and deliver on the implied promises inherent in their job classification.


Another important premise for you to understand is people won't change their behavior until it is imperative for them to do so. Employees will give you what you want when it is imperative that they do. Your job as a manager is to find the right imperative that will instill the internal desire within your employees to accomplish what you want.

Sometimes a perceived business imperative is all employees need in order to perform well. For example, knowing that a company might go out of business if the employees don’t improve the quality of the products they produce can often motivate employees to improve their results in order to save their jobs. Seeing the impact a new competitor is having in taking away business from your company can have a motivating effect on a sales force to generate more business. Understanding the fatal impact a production flaw might have in killing a customer can help employees concentrate on job safety. Consequently, finding the right business imperative that the employees can latch onto is critical to gaining their commitment to do what it is you want.

By far the best imperatives, however, are those that are specific to the interests and needs of the individual employee. Most people will not change their behavior until the consequences are such that they want to. Although negative consequences can cause people to move in the direction you want, the best consequences are those that provide an employee with a positive imperative to perform well. For example, delivery truck drivers who are allowed to go home as soon as all of their deliveries are made are less inclined to dally as they go about their work. Salespeople who get a commission on every sell usually stay focused on selling, rather than loitering around the sales floor. Teachers who are held accountable for student test scores are more inclined to teach rather than babysit. And employees who are paid for performance tend to be more productive than employees who are paid merely for being at work.


The strongest imperative in the workplace is your support as a manager. There will come a day when every employee will want your support. There will come a day when an employee will want a day off, a special favor, a promotion or a pay raise. When that day comes you will probably be more inclined to support those employees who are worthy of your backing because of how they performed and acted at work.

In other words, it is imperative for your employees to perform and act the way you want them to because there will come a day when it will be in their best interest to do so. The reason why employees need to perform well today is because there will come a day in their future when they will want to be rewarded for their actions.

Those employees who “get it,” realize their performance today determines the support they will receive in the future. This is why I tell my employees not to perform well for me, or for the company, or for the customers; but, rather, to do a good job for themselves, because there will come a day when they will want my support as their manager. I make it clear that I only support those employees who have supported me in the past by performing as I expect. This is the “it” I want them to get.

When your employees understand the major premise of your business and see the imperative for their work, they generally do what you want them to do. The more clearly you can define and articulate the major premises and personal imperatives, the less you will have to manage your people. When your employees keep the major premise and personal imperatives uppermost in their minds, they usually hold themselves accountable and manage their own performance in order to get the support they will want in the future.

Let me give you an example of this by discussing another area of our lives where there are major premises and personal imperatives – at home.  


If you are like most parents, you may experience the occasional tiff or tussle with your children, particularly if they are teenagers. This struggle often occurs because there is great disparity between what parents perceive their role to be and how teenagers view the parents’ role. Parents believe they exist to teach, nurture and protect their children. Teenagers seem to think parents exist to either make their lives miserable or to give them money whenever they want it so they can to do whatever they want. This difference in perceptions causes conflict in the relationship between parents and children.

When my wife and I were having difficulty with our teenage son we found it helpful to clarify for him what we felt was the major premise of why we exist as parents. We wrote the premise down and then talked to him about it so he would know that everything we do as parents is governed by one over-arching purpose. Here is what we told him is the reason why we exist as parents. We call it The Parental Major Premise:

We love you.
We would never do anything to purposely harm you.
We want you to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life
Everything we do as parents is designed toward that end, 
So don’t fight against us; we are on your side. 

Literally everything we do as parents is governed by our desire for our son to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life. It took a while for our son to fully grasp and accept this, but now our son knows when we tell him he cannot do something that the reason is tied to the parental major premise. Our yes or no is based on whether the activity will make our son happy, successful, independent or self-sustaining.

In reality, we don’t want to say no to our son; we want to say yes. We’re not ogres. But there are some things that are not in the best interest of our son’s future happiness, even though he may think otherwise. So we tell him we’re restricting him from doing an unwise thing today because we are not interested in his momentary pleasure; we are only interested in his long-term happiness. We’ve found with our son that once he accepts the parental major premise that we love him and are interested in his future success; it makes the short-term pain of today’s disappointments much easier to bear.

Because our son knows our parental major premise is in his own best interest, it is imperative for him to comply with our wishes if he wants to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life. He knows everything we do and say as parents is designed toward that end. He also knows our support is tied to his acceptance of and compliance with the parental major premise. Consequently, rather than arguing with us or fighting against our expectations, he usually does what we want when we want because he knows we are on his side.  

Our son also knows our parental support -- to allow him to do what he wants to do -- is based on his support of us regarding our rules, values, principles, beliefs, philosophies, etc. For example, our son knew that if he was dishonest at age twelve regarding telling us where he had been and what he'd been doing, there would come a day, at age sixteen, when he would want to borrow our car. He knew we would only support him by letting him use the car if we could trust he would be truthful when we asked him where he was going and what he would be doing in the car. Consequently, it became imperative for our son to do today what we, as parents wanted him to do because he knew he would want our support in the future.


The “parental major premise” also works in managing employees. It should be a managerial major premise that you are on the side of the employees, particularly if you want your employees to accomplish the major premise and imperatives of your business. Your employees will be more inclined to do what you want, when and how you want it, when they know – and believe it and feel it – that you "love" them and would never do anything to purposely harm them. Everything you do as a manager should be designed to help your employees have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining career. When they know you are on their side, they will stop fighting against you.

Employees are much happier, successful, independent and self-sustaining at work when you clearly identify their goals, roles, expectations, boundaries and authority. They produce more when their is a solid business premise and distinct imperatives to perform at optimal levels. They strive harder when there are clear consequences and measurements of success. They work harder when they know your support is tied to their performance and that there will come a day when you will give them what they want because they gave you what you want.

Your role as a manager -- the "it" you need to get -- is that you succeed when your employees succeed. When you understand your role -- and do it --the chances are higher your employees will understand their role and will do it. The extent to which you, and your employees, get "it" and do "it" is the extent to which you, and they, will be successful at work. §

Innovative Management Group offers a highly successful management training program that will help you get the "its" of your job. It also shows how you can help your employees to get "it." Our “Accountability Management Workshop” helps focus every employee at every level of your organization on the things that matter most. Call us at 702-258-8334 to learn more about this hard-hitting, results-oriented management training program.

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