Last Friday I came home to a fish in a plastic cup on my kitchen counter. My daughter named him Harley. She promptly went out and bought him a really nice bowl with beautiful blue rocks then filled the bowl with fresh water. I thought the fish was dead… really. He laid on the bottom for awhile and then he floated to the top. I tried to tell her that Harley was not going to make it – that he was dead in the water. She did not believe me and kept at it. She kept watching this half dead fish, trying to keep it living through pure will. We watched this fish for hours before he really began to swim around and attack the way-too-may- food pellets that we dropped in his new home. Two days later he is thriving – he looks like he is a brand new fish with a new lease on life.
A client called last week frustrated with his employee of almost 3 years… things were not getting done, balls were dropping and clients were not happy. I coached my client to sit down with his beloved employee and explain how he was feeling. Explain to your best employee ever that balls are getting dropped. Turns out, this really great employee needed fresh water and some attention. Remember, our employees are not us. They do not learn the job through osmosis; they learn it from their boss. And they continue to perform and perfect as a result of that leadership.
So, if you are feeling like your staff is half floating through their work, it is time for some attention. Show them that you are committed to their success by asking them how they are feeling about their work. Simply ask what you can do to help them enjoy their job better. And you know what? It is shocking to me how easy it is to keep your employees engaged and happy with a committed boss who cares enough to ask “Do you need some fresh water?”
And Harley? Well it turns out that he was the subject of a science experiment in my daughter’s science class. She “fish-napped” him because she said he looked dead. I said “Won’t your teacher be mad that you stole the fish from the experiment?”
“Mom,” she said with an eye roll. “The class is called ‘Life Science’, emphasis on LIFE!”
Well said, kiddo.
Your superstar employee is out pregnant. An amazing employee’s father is dying of cancer. Your right hand man injured himself in a Rugby game. For these employees, you will do whatever it takes to help them get back up and running. You will bend over backwards to accomplish whatever is needed to help them because you know that the effort is appreciated and will be reciprocated.
Then, you have that one employee who always spends their accrued vacation hours before they have really earned them. When they call in sick, you grit your teeth and seethe. Life happens, yet you are bothered.
The question is why do some situations bother you with some employees and not with others?
The big difference is that your rockstar employee will have a contingency plan in place so that work gets done in spite of life interruptions. They will work from home when their child is sick, or they will make plans to cover their job if they need to suddenly leave town. It isn’t their job to do that, but they do it anyway as a way to contribute to the team and the core values of the company. That extra little something that they do to make your life easier is why you will work hard to make them happy. Those who don’t aren’t really team members.
Christopher Robin: “There now. Did I get your tail back on properly, Eeyore? “
Eeyore: “No matter. I’ll most likely lose it again anyway.”
Last month, I interviewed a candidate who was world weary, tired and unhappy. This person had been out of work for a long time in an industry that is rapidly changing. The overall impact was the “Eeyore Effect.”
Christopher Robin and his gang are forever reaching out to help their friend re-attach his tail, but Eeyore shows no appreciation for their efforts. Not only does he not thank Christopher Robin for helping him, he criticizes Christopher’s work. He also puts forth no effort to permanently find a solution to his tail falling off. Has he thought about super glue? Stitches? Duck Tape?
In other words, Eeyore is an energy drainer. He is hard to be around. He has very little enthusiasm for his life, his work, his tail or even his friends. Can you imagine as if you had an employee like this?
Watch for the “Eeyore Effect” while you are interviewing, even if when faced with the world weary, tired and unhappy.
(Thanks to Michelle Barnes for “The Eeyore Effect”)