Three Questions for Changing Behavior

On the manufacturing floor, there are always going to be dozens of different, diverse personalities. When people with different—or even conflicting—personalities need to engage with each other, and it can cause conflicts that drain the energy of the team, create frustration, and lead to low productivity or high turnover. However, it’s still possible for a team to get their harmony back, which is exactly what happened with one of my recent coaching clients.

The Problem with Evan’s Behavior

My client’s team member, “Evan,” had an issue where he simply couldn’t stop talking. His teammates started to get annoyed with his chattiness. Eventually, they began to transfer their shifts to get away from him. Some of them even started looking at other companies! Then, Evan took a few months off work for personal reasons, and his team came back together. Morale went up, everyone became more engaged, and they all felt motivated to work.

But what happens when Evan comes back to work? To address the issue, his manager felt like he had three choices:

  1. On the day Evan returns, give him immediate coaching. Let him know that his behavior is not acceptable, and get it in writing that if he doesn’t change his behavior, he’ll eventually be fired.
  2. Give him a fresh start with a new shift and a new team, a solution which won’t necessarily solve Evan’s behavior
  3. Don’t bring Evan back to the organization at all, which comes with the risk of losing a hard-working employee

All of these solutions have their flaws. To help my client come up with some better alternative, I asked questions like:

  • If you sat down with Evan today and asked him to identify a behavior he needs to work on, could he articulate it?
  • Have you had a one-on-one conversation with Evan and asked open ended questions coming from a place of care and curiosity?
  • When was your most recent conversation with Evan? What was the follow up?

By using questions like these, my client was able to come up with a productive alternative for supporting Evan and bringing his team back together.

Three Questions to Ask Instead of Walking Away

Evan’s story is a great example of how people cannot fix their behavior if their leaders and peers are unwilling to have hard conversations. In many situations, it feels easier to walk away from an upsetting or stressful situation, instead of starting a productive dialogue. But when this happens, real change can’t occur. The next time you encounter a challenge on the floor, ask yourself these three questions instead of walking away.

How do I feel about my interactions and fit with my team?

We tend to make assumptions about what another person does or doesn’t know. But instead of creating your own stories about someone, embrace curiosity. Without curiosity, you’ll never know what another person is thinking, or what might be influencing their problematic behavior at work.

Have I received any feedback on how I show up and how my behavior impacts the team?

Along with asking questions, think about your own role as a leader. How does the team perform when you’re am not there? How has the team been doing without you? Don’t be afraid to get feedback. By asking questions and digging deeper, you can find the best solutions.

What could I do differently?

If you identify a gap in your leadership or organization that’s contributing to a team member’s behavior, own it! Hold yourself accountable for both the failures and successes of your team, and you’ll lead the way in finding a way to support everyone.

Bonus Tips: Starting Tough Conversations

Another lessons to take away from Evan’s situation is the importance of having difficult conversations about a team member’s behavior. To have a productive conversation about someone’s behavior, use these tips:

  • Start with positive, people do not care what you know or what you have to say until they know you care
  • Brace their mindset for feedback by starting the conversation with something like “I know you won’t want to hear this, but . . .”
  • Be kind but factual in your delivery
  • Practice empathy
  • Emphasize that the problem is not about them, but about the behavior they’re showing
  • Ask the team member to provide their own solutions
  • Don’t forget to follow-up after the conversation and check in on their progress

At Manufacturing Greatness, Trevor Blondeel works with manufacturers to connect the top to the shop floor. If you’re ready to improve your own organization, contact Trevor to learn how Manufacturing Greatness can help you build stronger leaders and develop a dynamic, high-performing workplace.

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