Signs of the Times - May 2017 - 8
Want to find better solutions? Get to the heart of the problem.
NE of my all-time best
bosses was a guy named
Bob Rivers, who worked
in the University of Cincinnati admissions office. Bob hired
me for an internship when I was a
starving grad student, finished with
classes and out of funding. But just
after we set a start date, I hit a snag
with my master's thesis - I needed at
least an extra month to work on it.
I called Bob, ready to beg. To my
surprise, he said, "Your degree is
more important than processing
transcripts. Tell me what day you
can start." On that first day and every
week thereafter, he asked how my
thesis was coming. Bob knew what
mattered to me. And he made sure it
mattered to him, too. Bob knew what
a lot of bosses don't: You have to get to
the need behind the request. I asked
to delay my start date, but I needed
someone who could see I had higher
priorities outside of work.
Imagine this: A member of your
team storms into your office. He's
sick of requesting PTO in advance
while his coworker always calls off
same-day. What's your first instinct?
Probably either to shut him down
("not your business"), explain the
problem away ("his kid was sick") or
make vague promises ("I guess I can
talk to him").
So, overtly the guy wants what?
More time off ? Maybe. But what's
really making the vein in his forehead
bulge? It's not the scheduling itself.
It's his desire to work in a fair atmos-
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
phere where he feels valued. Creating
the time to discuss the real problem
- though I wouldn't label it that way
in the moment - is a major factor
in retaining your top performers.
Because maybe Angry Guy isn't just
annoyed about his coworker. Maybe
this is part of a pattern of events
in which he's felt overworked and
undervalued. If he's a slacker, hey,
OK. But what if he's an all-star? If you
let every frustration bubble to the
surface, he's gone.
When presented with a problem,
many higher-ups just want to fix it.
The problem is, managers usually get
"it" wrong, assuming the first thing
someone says is the most important;
it may simply be what's top of mind
for them. Be careful not to confuse
urgency with importance.
Bob had that figured out, and he
got to the heart of what motivated
me. I was likely the university's most
devoted intern for a time. Sadly, it
was the only way I ever thanked him.
Bob died of a rare neurological disorder just months after hiring me. I'll
always regret not thanking him when
I had the chance.
Rest in peace, Bob. And thanks.
You were one of the good ones.
Signs of the
Signs of the