Look Them in the Eye by Jim Johnson


The employee who has great potential.  The employee who is a “vacationer” – they’re just hanging out and getting by.  The employee who is a drain to you and  your team.

We’ve all had these folks in our team.  Chances are, you have them on your team right now.  How can you as the leader cause change for the better?  Before you sit down with them in a coaching or counseling session,  get prepared.

The Message

Do you know what you need to tell them to bring about the change that’s needed?  You need to know. Work intentionally on your message to them. Keep it very clear and direct. Your message should move them emotionally, mentally, and physically (you want new actions).  Rehearse your message. Write it out.  Know it well enough that you’ll share it ftom your heart.

The Setting

Meet in a place where you’ll have your employee’s complete attention.

The Interaction

Kick off the meeting by sharing the purpose.  “Bill, I’ve been noticing how you’ve been taking the initiative on the new project to keep things moving. Others are noticing,  too.  You’re having a positive impact,  and I want to talk with you about your future and how we can expand your influence.”

Move then to the specifics of your message. While your words are important,  it will be the eye contact and passion with which you share that will stick. 

Two scenarios:

1. (The leader looks at the table,  wall, or out the window) “Beth, you are capable of so much more. You’ve been here at our company for 10 years now.   I expect – the company expects – more value from you and your performance.”

2. (The leader eans forward, looks directly in her eyes and says with encouragement and some insensitivity) “Beth, you are capable of so much more. You’ve been here at our company for 10 years now.   I expect – the company expects – more value from you and your performance.”

Which scenario would have more impact and most likely cause change in Beth?

Scenario 2 is far more impacting.  It draws both parties in and focuses both on the message. It communicates “this is important – listen carefully”. 

Far too often,  our coaching or counseling sessions are focused on the time the session takes vs. the lasting impact and change needed. Your emotional and intentional involvement with your employee is critical in their development and performance.

Challenge: try this. Get prepared and try this approach. Your high potential employee will feel valued. Your “vacationer” will feel uncomfortable with being exposed and can move towards a more efficient and results-producing work life. Your disgruntled employee will get the message that they need to change.  They will know they will need to turn their attitude and actions around or eventually they may be turned out.

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