#AskRevela – Developing Employees

Let us be your leadership “Google.” Ask Revela!

Recently, we began asking those we work with to provide us with questions they’d like answered or things they’ve been struggling with. The next question we’d like to address is…

Do you have any suggestions on how to develop an employee who refuses to take direction?
 – Jennifer


Dear Jennifer,

We know that developing employees can be difficult. Especially if you have employees who don’t want to (or refuse to) take direction from a supervisor. There could be multiple reasons that an employee would refuse to take direction. It could be that the employee doesn’t feel inspired. Or maybe the employee has been with the company for a long time, and has his/her own way of doing things. Or it could even be something that the supervisor is unintentionally doing, like not meeting employees where they are. We’ll address a couple of these scenarios…

The uninspired employee.

It’s not plausible to have every person on our team devote 100% of their energy every day. In fact, people have huge amounts of energy they could devote, but many are just not inspired to do so. That doesn’t mean they aren’t satisfied… rather they may be unmotivated or disengaged in certain areas of their work. According to research, “inspired employees bring more discretionary energy to their work every day. As a result, they are 125% more productive than an employee who is merely satisfied.”

So start by finding ways to engage your people. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you know what is important to this person? Why do you want to develop this person? Does this person have a career path that exceeds the current responsibilities he/she has today? And have you communicated this information to the employee?

The tenured employee.

We believe that people have good intentions. Employees don’t wake up every day and ask themselves, “How can I upset my supervisor today?” People want to do good work. When you have an employee who has been with a company for a long period of time, it’s likely because the employee is loyal, and does his/her job well. With that dynamic, however, he/she has probably seen a lot, dealt with a lot, and endured many changes within the company. That experience can also make an employee subconsciously resistant to feedback and change. They know the processes, they know the procedures, and they’ve worked the front line. What could someone else possibly teach them?

With employees in this mindset, it’s important for the supervisor to be very clear about long-term goals, and the reasoning behind them. And then, instead of resisting against “what we’ve always done,” use this person’s expertise to your advantage. Where do you see the department going? And how can this person be your “expert” to help you get there?

The misguided supervisor.

We know that as a supervisor, you want to do right by your employees. You want to develop them, watch them grow, and help them progress in their careers. However, sometimes what we do (or the way we supervise) doesn’t match what the employee needs. You have to meet employees where they are. Here are a couple of different scenarios to consider.

First, understand that all of us have different learning styles. How does your employee prefer to learn something new? And are you doing it that way? For instance, you may be telling an employee how to do something, or are providing a step-by-step procedure; then expecting the employee to be trained. But, what if that’s not how your employee learns? What if he/she is a visual learner? Maybe, all it takes is for you to sit down and show them how you do something, while letting them observe.

Or it could be the opposite. Let’s say you’re training that tenured employee we just talked about. Maybe you’re providing step-by-step instructions, but the employee is more hands-on, and just wants to dive in and learn his/her own way. It’s important to find out what they already know, how they prefer to learn, and then work to fill in the blanks.

The bottom line.

It’s your job to develop people. It’s your job to motivate them and inspire them to do good work. It’s also your job to meet deadlines and goals. And we know that doing all of that together can be hard. Just remember, every employee is different. Each has different needs, different preferences, a different style of communication, and his/her own way of doing things. The best thing you can do is get to know your people; then meet them in the middle.

And if you need help, send us an email. We’re happy to help in any way we can!

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