1. “I need you to” versus “You need to.”
Kids are sensitive. Tell a child or a teenager that they need to do something and they’ll find a way to contradict it. They don’t need to do anything. But semantics is a beautiful thing. Tell them that you need them to do something and the likelihood that they’ll actually do it will usually increase.
The same with adults: there is nothing more off-putting than people telling you that “you need” to do something. Tell an employee, “You need to do this,” and they’ll be thinking, “No, what I need to do is find a new job.”
It really can be as simple as, “I need you to…” Because, at the end of the day, that’s the reality of the situation: they don’t need to estimate a project’s budget — but you, in fact, need an estimated budget for the project.
However, be forewarned. Any teacher can tell you that there is a limit to this phraseology. Tell your employees, “I’m going to need you to come in on Sunday, too,” one too many times and you’ll end up much like the company in Office Space (hey, has anyone seen my stapler?).
2. Model the behavior you want.
A teacher could never expect his or her students to gently put things away, stay in their seat, say only nice things, etc., if the teacher is tossing books onto the shelves, constantly fidgeting, and gossiping with the other teachers. The same goes for office employees.
Back in the day, I used to have a boss who would sit in her office and play on her phone. All day. Just her, in her office, cell phone “hidden” under her desk, playing games. She’d then have the audacity to turn to her employees and expect the world of us, wanting to hear no excuses as to why a certain task couldn’t get accomplished. A lot of us (myself included) resented that she wanted us to put in 110% while she put in the minimal effort. As a result, our productivity began to mirror that of our boss’s, which was the minimal acceptable amount.
If you want your employees to work hard: work hard. If you want your employees to respect each other: respect them, as well as your own colleagues. If you want them to show initiative, take initiative. The world does not operate by, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
3. Consistency is key for respect.
The most common mistake rookie teachers make is the use of empty threats to get children to follow the rules. I wish I had a dime for every time I heard a teacher say, “I’m counting to three and then [consequence that pertains to the matter at hand] … one, two… two and a half … c’mon just do it!”
The only thing this does is teach the kids that the teacher’s words carry no weight. This is the same for anyone in a leadership position. The best way to undermine your own authority is to say that a certain protocol is in effect, only to inconsistently carry it out. Promise one thing, but deliver another. Say that something will definitely not happen, only to have it happen anyway.
All you are doing is proving that your words have no weight, which will only result in employees who don’t respect your authority. And just ask any teacher: it is downright impossible to get even the tiniest thing accomplished when your authority is not respected by your underlings.
4. Everyone Needs a Break.
A semi-recent study found that people are actually more productive when they have more opportunities to have fun and take some time off. This is something teachers know all too well. Students are more likely to start acting out if they’re stuck all day at their desk or in circle time, constantly working. Kids tend to be better behaved when they are given a chance to get out of the building, run around, play, and just in general take a break.
Likewise, employees lose their focus, their drive, their energy, when they feel like they are being driven into the ground without any break or opportunity for time off. There’s a reason why some of the most successful and innovative companies in the world allow their employees to take naps or get unlimited vacation time. Apparently, even a reasonable amount of Facebook time is actually beneficial to productivity. Something to consider when you’re hounding an employee to “reconsider” their planned vacation because something came up with a project right before their scheduled departure.
5. Understand the Big Picture.
The most important — and hardest — thing to do as a teacher is to recognize that poor performance or disruptive behavior is usually the result of external forces. A kid might be acting up because home life has been stressful, because their personal life just took a nosedive, or because too much is happening at once and they have no real way to process it all.
While, at the end of the day, everyone is accountable for their actions, regardless of the catalyst, it’s important to remember that we’re not cogs in a machine. We’re all human, complex and emotional, and sometimes we need those in charge to recognize that. And while bosses can’t exactly approach their employees in question and give them a hug the way teachers sometimes can, the ability to understand and act accordingly is vital.