It was the same scene every morning he was supposed to work. Rolling in 20-30 minutes late. Frustrating the team. Getting me stressed wondering if he was going to show. Running in with apologies and it-won’t-happen-agains and other empty nonsense.
He’d been written up. There had been conversations. Nothing mattered. The same behavior with no change.
Out of ideas, one day I called him into the office to have yet another conversation about his attendance. I let him know that the team was having to pick up his slack with getting the restaurant set up when he ran late. I let him know the reason he got the “bad” sections was that I couldn’t rely on him being there, so he got assigned where I could get other people to cover, which was impacting his tips.
Then I straight up asked him. “What do you think the consequences should be for your being late?”
“I’ll come in early for my morning shifts for the next month and get the dining room set up for the team!”
My initial thought was alright, sucker, I was going to have you do it for a few shifts, but if you’re in for a month, who am I to stop you? Second thought was if he can’t get to work on time as is, will he really come in 30 minutes early?
As if he could read my mind, he shared, “Those guys matter to me. I know how tight-knit the team is and I don’t want to be the jerk that they get annoyed at and ignore. I thought you hated me which is why I got those bad sections, but now I see why and I want to make more money, so I’m going to make sure I get here so I can get better sections. I’m going to do it.”
(Hate was a strong word and I let it go–yet another fun example of the stories we make up that cause emotional exhaustion, but that take is for another blog.)
You know what? He did it. To everyone’s surprise, he got there early for a month and had that dining room well on its way to being set up before the rest of the team got there. He did get better sections, and I didn’t have to spend my morning stressed to see if David was going to show.
The opportunity: ask people what they think. Ask people what they think the solution might be, and what the consequences of their actions might be. More often than not, they are going to be more extreme than you would have imagined.
People like to be part of the conversation. When they think of the consequences, they are going to be more bought in because it was their idea. They’re not getting punished or scolded or reprimanded or “in trouble.”
If they come up with the idea, they are more likely to do it, because it’s their idea! Deceivingly straightforward cause and effect.
Shine a light on the impact their behavior is having, and then let them devise a fitting solution.
David wanted to be part of that tight-knit-cult-like team.
David wanted to make a lot of money.
When I pointed out that it was his actions that were getting in the way of making that happen, he realized he could take ownership of his fate, change his behavior, and get what he wanted by taking different actions.
When you bring people in by asking them questions, responsibility and ownership kick in on their end and you no longer have to be responsible for doing the heavy lifting of fixing all of the problems and coming up with all of the solutions.