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Employees Can’t Read Your Mind

Originally published
Originally published: 9/1/2020

Inspiring teams to not only do their job, but to do it with gumption and purpose, needs a particular style of leadership.


“People just don’t have common sense anymore,” said one contractor to another.

“I know, right! Why can’t people just do their job?” was the response.

“For real! I mean, how hard is it to just do what you’re supposed to do? Show up on time, work hard, get paid,” the contractor continued.

“Dude, it’s like I have to hold their hand through everything.”

“They knew what they were getting into when they came to this industry, but they always fail to meet my expectations. How hard can it be? Geez, just suck it up and do your job. Put your big boy (or girl) pants on,” finished the contractor.

And then they went back to work, begrudgingly putting up with all the things their employees did that drove them crazy, hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Just to have it repeat itself all over again. THE END.


Inspiring teams to not only do their job, but to do it with gumption and purpose, needs a particular style of leadership. There is a consistent conversation going on about how to get teams to do what needs to be done while still being understanding and empathetic. It’s a fine line to navigate. It starts with accepting that your employees can’t read your mind — your common sense isn’t their common sense.

For example, when I was younger, my mom would tell me to go clean my room. How do you think I cleaned it? Well, I threw everything under the bed or in the closet. In my mind, the room was clean. In my mom’s mind, I made it worse.

It wasn’t until she came into my room with me, literally put her hand over mine, and showed me how to pick up my toys and where to put them. She practiced with me on how to fold my clothes and make my bed. She demonstrated to me what she expected and made sure she did it with me. After that, I always knew what she meant when she said, “go clean your room.”

It’s the same thing with our employees — Leaders will tell their technicians, “Go clean your truck.” Result: It rarely gets cleaned.

This is because your idea of a clean truck and your technician’s idea of a clean truck is different. If you don’t personally show them how to clean a truck, which products to use, where to dispose of the trash, how to organize it, then don’t expect them to do it.

You have to do the work with them, show them exactly how you want it done, before you can expect them to even scratch the surface.

Another example: I’ve heard many contractors say, “How hard is it to book a call? You just say yes and care about the customer.”

Just because your CSR has a positive personality doesn’t mean they will be amazing at call handling. You have to practice and demonstrate with them exactly what you want them to do.

So, in a sense, you might indeed feel like you have to hold their hand. But that is only at the beginning.

If you clearly and effectively set your expectations, practice over and over, you will begin to see that your team is able to work autonomously. And that is exactly what you want. After that, if they fail to meet those expectations, it’s easier to hold them accountable because you’ve consistently tracked these interactions and can enforce consequences.

There are several principles that when applied, will change behavior. And as behavior is changed, so is culture. So please, don’t let these next “ideas” just be good ideas. Do something with them to make a difference for yourself and your team.

Positivity and Confidence

We could talk all day long about how to have a positive attitude. But I would rather focus on something that can destroy positivity in the workplace. It’s called venting. We all love to vent. It feels good to get something off of our chest. But it isn’t necessarily helpful or productive.

Venting usually involves complaining about someone or something. It then usually generates gossip, which creates drama in the workplace.

Venting is different than talking about your feelings. Venting doesn’t offer solutions. It is mostly word vomit you spill onto another person. So, first I want you to check yourself. When you feel the need to vent, ask yourself if there is a point to what you want to say.

If it really has no point other than to make you feel better, find another way to get it off your chest (like exercising, journaling or cleaning). Then, when your employees come to you to vent, you will be more equipped to change the direction of the conversation rather than feeding into it.

For example, if an employee comes to you to vent, perhaps you could respond with something like this to redirect the conversation: “Thank you so much for bringing this to me. That sounds frustrating.

I’m wondering what we could be doing to help Person X? Perhaps we should invite them in and talk personally so we can find an efficient and easy solution for us all. When would you be available to do that?”

Listening and Caring

Who loves those yearly reviews with employees? It seems like they are one of the most dreaded meetings ever. And to be honest, having just one big meeting once a year to review performance and/or promotions isn’t the best way to hold your team accountable and grow in the company. Accountability should be done in small increments.

If you want better performance and employee engagement, it would be wise to set a recurring meeting with your employees, or those who are directly underneath you, for 30 minutes every single month.

Do not reschedule it because you get busy. You show up, every time. This needs to be a formal meeting, not a conversation in the truck on your way to your next call.

This will build loyalty and trust more quickly than almost anything else you could do. Use this time to listen to them and ask them questions.

Practice (role play) with them different scenarios they need to perfect. Set expectations and give feedback. As you do this, your yearly reviews will be so much easier. Your team will more clearly understand your expectations because you’ve consistently talked about them, recorded their goals, and tracked their performance. Be consistent.

*If you need ideas of things to talk to your employees about during these one-on-one meetings, please text “100” to 385-247-3714

Giving and Asking

Most people are horrible at giving feedback. That is because they use the “sandwich method.” The concept that you tell someone a positive, negative, positive doesn’t work anymore.

We all know what is really happening — you’re trying to soften the blow. At least that is the intention. But what really happens is your employees feel like you aren’t being sincere in your two positive compliments. All they are focusing on is the negative.

Feedback Power Method

We shouldn’t be scared of feedback, whether giving or receiving it. We just need a good process to deliver it. I want to share with you the Feedback Power Method that Stephen Dale and I created, which will help you feel confident in having these conversations that can sometimes be awkward or difficult.

Ask permission to speak & state your intention for having this conversation and the desired result or outcome.

Example: Employee X, do you have a few minutes to talk? I would like to discuss with you something I’ve noticed. I probably should have brought it up sooner and I apologize I didn’t. My goal is that each one of my employees is happy working here, successful in what they do, and that it is easy to work together.

Explain the observed behavior and the impact/influence it is having.

Example: I’ve noticed that you are frequently about 15 minutes late to work every day. Because of this, others have to cover for you, we start our meetings and calls late, people are waiting on you, and it sets us back. 15 minutes might not seem like a big deal, but it affects the entire outcome of the day.

Ask “What are your thoughts on that?”

Example: Do you have any thoughts on that? (this is where they will then tell you their reasoning)

Acknowledge their reasoning.

Example: Thank you for sharing with me some of the reasons why being consistently late has been a pattern for you. I appreciate hearing your side of things.

Build an agreement/solution and say thank you.

Example: What can I do to help support you in getting here on time? (set your expectations and commit to a plan of action moving forward to get the desired outcome. As much as you can, ask your employee enough questions so your plan of action is their idea, not yours.) Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate it and I am excited to see you continue to grow and be successful.

It is the small things you do, consistently over time, that will make the big difference. Your biggest gift to your team is your time. If you do not have enough time to spend with them, helping them grow, then you will probably always be working in your business, not on it.


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