In response to the post about Circuit City, Katherine Ervasti in the Tourism Management Business Development Program at Niagara College pointed out that sometimes you have employees who are focused on service, and others that are focused on the process. I thought this was an interesting topic…
We’ve probably all worked with him/her… the employee that will talk to anyone, help anyone, but you can’t get them to be on time or to fill out their paperwork correctly.
On the other side of the coin you have those who complete paperwork and tasks perfectly, but may not be as comfortable striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.
When we look at where this comes from, we can look to personality, up-bringing, skill level, behavioral styles, environment, etc. To me, all this leads to understanding a person’s ‘comfort zone’.
I don’t know about you, but when I am in my comfort zone, I feel safe. I feel confident and secure in what I can do. One of my comfort zones is in the classroom as a facilitator. I have been doing that for many years and have developed the skill to where I typically get very favorable response.
Your employees, no matter how old or young, have had time to develop their comfort zones as well, and much of that is derived from where they have had success and gotten positive attention in the past.
From a staffing stand point, there are two ways to look at this. You can either place people strictly in their comfort zones and rarely ask anything else from them, or you can you allow them to step outside of themselves once in a while so they can develop a new skill. The latter of course is more difficult and time consuming, but the pay off is more flexibility with who can do what so you are not so dependent on one person as the only one who can do a particular task.
Here’s a strategy, understanding that not everyone will be great at everything, but also realizing people typically will do what gets favorable attention. Learn to praise accomplishment, in addition to the final product. This way you reinforce the positive steps along the journey, which helps you get to the final goal.
For instance, if you have any employee that is terrible with paperwork, encourage the little victories along the way, rather than waiting until it is perfect. These may be small ‘at-a-boys’, but they will work wonders when you are trying to develop a new habit or skill in your employees – especially if it is outside their current comfort zone. Also relaying the importance of the task to what they already like doing helps communicate the bigger picture. A service-oriented employee may not care about the process until they see how it effects service.
If you can establish new confidence and skill in an employee, you will have just created a new comfort zone for them, which ultimately makes your job easier.