John, head machine tender for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"My 'Pearl' is an individual who works on my crew. He can be very difficult to work with at times. Every time I would ask him to perform the slightest extra out-of-routine task pertaining to his job, it was always, 'I'll see if I have time', or he would respond in some other very negative sarcastic manner. I decided to approach this individual in a different way. Whenever I had an 'extra' task to be done by him, I would break the ice by asking him how his days off had been and how his woodworking hobby projects were coming along. He is a very talented guy and stays quite busy on his days off. I showed him I was interested in his hobbies, which opened him up. He is always willing to bring me up-to-date on his progress with his most recent project. Then I could more easily ask if he could do something for me. For example, I asked him to work on our caliper profiles to make some adjustments that could lead to some big performance improvements. I asked him to let me know the steps he took to accomplish this so I could pass on what he learned to the other crews. I told him, 'Your efforts will be greatly appreciated,' and I thanked him in advance. His response was, 'Sure, no problem. I'll work on it and let you know'! He did a great job at straightening out the caliper profiles, and I praised him for a job well done.
I've made a new commitment to myself that before each shift ends, I will take the time and see each member of my crew and praise them for their part in our progress, a 'job well done', whether it be a large or small job. It is amazing how much better this makes me feel and shows my crew I care about them at the same time.The lesson I have learned from this experience is that taking the time to get to know more about my coworkers and crew members' hobbies and outside interests they like to talk about opens them up and prepares the way for me to ask them to tackle a the new tasks required for continuous improvement in the mill.
The action I call you to take is get to know your coworkers and crew members, ask them questions about their hobbies and outside interests. Listen to what they have to say. You will learn more about their personal lives and in the process, build the most valuable component of leadership, rapport. The benefit you will gain is you will earn your coworkers and crew members respect, and above all, you will have employees that become positive and begin to give 110% to hit your goals and make your department a better place to work for everyone."