“It’s not about the doin’; it’s about the communication of what needs done.”
That’s how Chris Reinhardt, Kansas State University Extension feedlot specialist, boils down the role of a manager or supervisor. While that’s intrinsically obvious, he says your efforts at employee communication are just words if you don’t motivate employees to be better tomorrow than they were today.
To do that, he says, you have to cut the “noise” that surrounds what you say and how you say it – noise that creates a language barrier between you and your people. “This isn’t about Spanish vs. English,” Reinhardt says. “This is about the language that person wants to hear in terms of speaking to who they are.”
There are two critical steps in damping the noise that surrounds your communication. “In order to understand this language barrier, who this other person might be, you’ve got to understand who you are first. You’ve got to define who you are, what your hot buttons are, what drives you to get out of bed on Monday morning.”
Then, you have to listen to your employees, so you can understand who they are. “You can’t know your people if you don’t listen. And the only way to listen to them is to spend time with them.”
As you’re doing that, try to listen between the words to determine what type of person each employee is. Reinhardt says an easy way to look at that is to think about four major personality types defined by the acronym DISC.
- D is for someone whose primary driver is dominance. This person is assertive about their opinions and their ideas.
- The high I person prefers to be an influencer. They like to be part of the team, and are very social people.
- S is for steadiness. High S people tend to be patient, predictable, thoughtful and deliberate.
- The high C person thrives on compliance and prefers structure and organization. They’re accurate, exacting and precise.
Most managers are D-type people – no nonsense, get it done types. And a high D person tends to be very low in S-type characteristics. Likewise, a high S person tends to be low on D-type traits. Here’s how that comes into play in a feedyard:
A high S maintenance manager has a high D person for a boss. A feed truck has been broken down for a week. The high D boss comes in and says “I need that feed truck rolling at 5 a.m. tomorrow. I don’t care what you have to do, we need that truck.”
“The high D boss didn’t do anything wrong,” Reinhardt says. “He did what comes naturally to him. He genuinely needs the truck ready at 5 a.m., and he was clear about that.”
But what high S heard is “you don’t know anything about my job or my life. You don’t care about how I work.” That’s the noise Reinhardt talks about. “High S will bust his tail and be there until 2 a.m. to get the thing running,” Reinhardt says, even if he has to miss his son’s ball game that evening.
“But in the process, if the high D boss didn’t know what he did, he created a wedge between him and the high S guy. He might have gotten his outcome, but if I’m a high S guy and you’re driving me nuts, I’m updating my resume,” Reinhardt says.
There are ways a high D boss can motivate employees to get the job done without alienating them, but the boss has to be flexible and versatile and couch his words in less-demanding tones. People are different, Reinhardt says, and the only way you’re going to know that is to care enough to know. By knowing who you are and knowing who your employees are, you can structure your approach so employees hear the intended message and don’t hear the unintended message, he adds.
That means you have to cross the bridge to your employees. “If we’re burning them up, if we’re not hearing the language they want to communicate in, we’re going to lose good people,” Reinhardt says.