If you’ve been in the same position for any length of time, it’s probable you’ve done some degree of learning along the way. That learning has in turn likely caused you to go about your job differently.
You’ve no doubt learned some shortcuts, ways to do things better, got your favourite stories and catch phrases down pat. In some areas you’ve made subtle changes and in others maybe it’s a complete overhaul of your message or your methods. How does the 2018 you differ from the same you, say, 5 or 10 years ago?
Working with people and helping them find employment, I can recall my approach many years ago where I started all my interactions on the premise that the person just needed to follow my well-thought-out plan of action and they’d be employed in no time. After all, it has always worked for me, so why wouldn’t it work for them?
However, I noticed in those early days that more often than not, there was a lack of follow through for many of these people. Not only did they not move forward much, they were often sincerely contrite and apologetic for not doing so. It was very much like they were sorry for letting ME down. Ah well, I’d say something like at least they wouldn’t make the same mistakes again, and I’d map out another great strategy to reach their goal; all they had to do was follow my revised plan. Tic-tac-toe and you reach your goal!
Sometimes it takes time to realize your approach isn’t working; that it’s not THEM, it’s YOU – or in this case, me. If I could see myself both in the present and in the past sitting side by side as I worked with someone, I’d see tangible differences in my approach, language, goals and yes, results.
I believe one of the most important things I learned over the years is the value in first establishing a real relationship with the person before me. This is sometimes easy and at other times challenging. While some people open up immediately and share pretty serious and personal issues, others come in with bitterness, anger, frustration and all that pent-up hostility towards anyone in a position of authority is directed at whoever is convenient and nearby; namely me. Thing is, it would be you or him or her were someone else in front of them, so it’s not me personally they have issues with, it’s everyone.
When you form a solid, trusting relationship with someone, they tell you what’s really going on more often than not. When you know what’s going on in their life, you can better strategize together some plan to move the person forward; but it may not be that the end goal you have in mind – a job – is the goal they are working on. That goal might be 5 goals away, and expecting them to hurdle the necessary steps they have to take to get there only sets them up to fail to meet your expectations.
So building a trusting relationship; how do you do that? Well, for starters, I’ve come to start most interactions by sincerely asking the person what they’d like to talk about; what’s on their mind. Most aren’t ready for this simple question. No, they’ve been used to being told what the purpose of the meeting is for and asked how their job search is coming. So, do you want to hear what’s really going on that you need to consider or do you want them to tell you what you want to hear?
While I don’t recommend setting the bar so low that meeting all their goals still doesn’t do much for them, having lofty expectations of what they are to carry out before your next meeting might set them up to fail. Failure you may know, is not always the greatest motivator, especially with people for whom failure is a familiar presence. Sure failure can be a great teacher, and you have to fail many times often before you become successful. It’s equally or more important however to realize people may be very fragile before you, and without knowing how many times they’ve failed up to the present, you’ve no way of knowing how many more failures they can tolerate before giving up completely.
So what about you though? How have you grown or changed over the years? What is it about your personal philosophy or your approach that’s developed for the better? How you go about your daily job now vs. then might be something you see in others just starting out in their own careers. As much as you can pass on advice and suggestions, wouldn’t you agree that people need to ‘get there’ on their own to a large degree? The changes in approaches they’ll take they might learn from observing you.
Things like Servant Leadership, backwards planning, listening skills; these are but three things I’ve come to value, use and show over the years. When I started out, I didn’t even know what Servant Leadership was, and backwards planning; what’s that?
One thing I’ve really come to see the benefit in is providing a label for others strengths and positive qualities. Telling a struggling single parent that you admire their resiliency and showing them how they prove they have it can be a conversation stopper as they pause and consider that.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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