Why are staff are my biggest challenge? I can never find the best people. They’re often unreliable, and they never commit to my business the way I want them to. How can I change this?
Staff are, of course, people. Whenever we deal with people, we’re talking about individuals. They have mixed and complex motives, a wide variety of drives and personal wishes, and come from totally different economic, educational, and purposeful backgrounds. Some are ambitious leaders, others most comfortable being led; some are confident, others hurt and are unsure of themselves; etc., etc. It’s no wonder they’re a “challenge”!
We business owners become far better leaders of our teams when we decide to be genuinely interested in other people, wanting them to excel to the highest limits of their capability (whether this means they stay with us, or not). We may need to alter within ourselves to find this change of heart. And yes, we may also need to learn new skills, new “how to’s” in regards to discovering how to communicate superbly, experiencing how to interview really well, and learning to encourage and endorse rather than to criticise and find fault. But pause that thought for a moment.
We often use “I” language, when people respond far better to “we”. We say we “can’t afford time to molly-coddle them”, when actually we can’t afford not to submit to Jesus and learn to see and love them as He sees and loves them. One of our greatest disservices to ourselves is to adopt and use false, “commercial language” about our teams either in our written material and/or when we speak to them – or even just think about them.
We let phrases like: “Our company’s a family; you are our most important assets” trip off our tongues, never really believing them. And if we do believe them, we are deceiving ourselves. Have you even considered how untruthful – and demeaning – that kind of language is? We are falsifying something to make it sound palatable. It tars us with a brush that leaves our integrity in tatters. Consider an honest difference between families and businesses:
Secondly, the word “asset” objectivises them. It denotes a possession, a commodity we’ve acquired whose sole purpose to increase the financial wealth of the company – in which they rarely share in a meaningful way (only via their wage).
Is it any wonder we have “challenges” with our team? This kind of language communicates, albeit subliminally, that we don’t care; we’re merely saying we do in the hope they’ll be duped by it. Subconsciously our teams hear that our words – and perhaps we ourselves – can’t be trusted.
Did you ever work to the highest of your abilities for someone you didn’t like or trust?
By contrast, Jesus treated people quite the opposite. He elevated with dignity everyone He ever met who’d been degraded, marginalised or dehumanised by others:-
Gentiles (e.g. Matt. 15:21-28);
Lepers (e.g. Luke 17:11-19);
Ritually ‘unclean’ people (e.g. Luke 8:43-48);
Samaritans (e.g. John 4:7-26);
Women (e.g. Luke 7:36-50);
The sexually immoral (e.g. John 4:1-42);
Tax collectors (e.g. Luke 19:1-10);
Children (Luke 18:15-17).
So the starting place for change has to be a long, hard look in a mirror. Are we the problem that causes our team to be a challenge to us? What is Jesus saying to us about this, as our CEO? How can we include our team and draw them in, rather than holding them at arm’s length? How do we let them know, completely and genuinely, that they really do matter to us? How can we show this, not just say it?
When we believe in our people, only then should we consider learning “skills and techniques” to help our team understand their value to us, through better selection processes, improved communication, training and upskilling, creating advancement opportunities, etc.
Once our people trust us, they’ll believe in us and who we are – we become the kind of leader they’ll want to give their absolute best to, achieving alongside us the goals of a business which now recognises their value, and which they now feel part of.