Dr Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip — How to get people to run to your workplace + Three strategies that will triple your listening effectiveness

How to get people to run to your workplace

A 7th grader asked Dr. Bill Bennett, the former Secretary of Education, “How can you tell a good country from a bad one?”

Bennett replied, “I apply the Gate Test. When the gates of a country are open, watch which way the people run. Do they run into the country or out of the country?”

It was an excellent question that got an excellent response.

And I think the same question could be applied to your organization. If your people were exposed to other job opportunities and if all other things were equal, would they stay with you or would they leave you?

The answer will tell you if you’ve got a positive or negative work environment. And it’s no small matter because…

► 1. Negative work environments cost you big time.

After all, negative work environments drive your best people away.

And it costs 1½ to 2 times a person’s yearly salary to replace an employee and get a new person up to speed. Because you have to pay for such obvious things as advertising, recruitment, background checks, interviews, orientation, and training when good people flee your “gates.”

You also have some less-obvious costs in the loss of intellectual capital when an experienced person leaves and mistakes are made by the new inexperienced person. There’s the disruption of teamwork and a variety of service problems — all of which can lead to lost customers.

Quite simply, you can’t afford a negative work environment.

The good news is you’re not stuck. .

► 2. You can build a more positive work environment.

I know. I do that all the time in organizations where I speak live or virtually.

In fact, David G. Lewis wrote to tell me: “My wife came home this evening and couldn’t wait to tell me about your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program. She thought you were AWESOME and gave you fives all across the board. Now you’d have to know my wife to know that fives all across the board means that next to the 2nd coming of Christ you’re the next best thing! Heck she doesn’t even give me fives across the board.”

F.Y.I. My next and last Journey program will be November 12-13, 2020 in St. Louis. We have fewer than ten seats remaining. To join me, go to www.attendthejourney.com and register now.

Of course, you’re wondering where your workplace falls on the negative to positive scale.

I tell my clients to start with my “Environmental Burnout Premise.” It says that people are not so much burned out on their jobs as they are burned out on the atmosphere in which they have to do their jobs.

To check out the environment or atmosphere in your workplace, ask yourself the following questions.

► 3. Do the people at work feel more like Prisoners or Pioneers?

John Borchert, the general manager for the Army Corp/Prison Blues Clothing Line in Oregon, says, “Prisoners learn early that the way to survive on the inside is to keep a low profile and follow orders. Sadly, that’s the same lesson that workers in most businesses learn.”

In positive work environments, the workers do more than simply “get by” or “survive.” They’re pioneers. They’re thinking of new and better ways to do their jobs or serve their customers. They’re excited and energized and their enthusiasm touches everyone around them.

► 4. Are the people at work more Upbeat or Downcast?

As I speak in various organizations, I can see that lots of people don’t like their jobs. And I hear about the whining, complaining, and backbiting that those people engage in. They’re obviously Downcast.

What about the folks around you? Are they more Upbeat or Downcast? Do you see more smiles or frowns? It’s a pretty good indicator of your work environment.

And what about you? What are people going to say at your funeral? Are they going to say, “He hated every day of work and he made sure everyone around him hated their work as well?”

When I listen to Downcast people, they talk about their pay, their hours, their boss, or any number of challenging scenarios.

But I tell them they have a choice. They can focus on the negatives or they can focus on the positives — because there are no perfect jobs.

Of course, when I talk that way, Downcast people think I’m too cheerful. They think I’m being unrealistic. But I like the way Daniel L. Reardon puts it. He says, “In the long run, the pessimist ‘may’ be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.”

► 5. Does your organization put a greater emphasis on Sick Days or Well Days?

As you well know, only 50% of those who call in sick are actually sick — physically sick. They’re just sick of work.

Part of the problem is due to the fact that many organizations reward sickness while they punish health.

I’m NOT suggesting that companies remove sick-day pay. Not at all.

I’m simply saying that it makes sense to put a greater emphasis on wellness. An organization could reward people for perfect attendance over a period of time. They could put all the winners’ names into a drawing for a bigger prize. It would make things a bit fairer for those people who never get sick and never get to use their sick days.

Or an organization could give their employees the privilege of using a “sick day” as a “call-in-well day.” The employee could call in and say, “I’d love to come to work today, but I’m feeling so mighty good that I’m calling in well. I won’t be there, but I’ll see you tomorrow, brighter and fresher than ever.”

Final Thought: Before you complain too much about this country, or your organization, or your job, apply the Gate Test. When all the barriers are removed, watch which way the people run.

Three strategies that will triple your listening effectiveness

Businessman playing guitar in business meeting

Just the other day, a participant in my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience said to me, “You probably don’t recall the lunch we had several years after I attended your program. But you asked me if I was happy with my career, if I was doing what I really wanted to do. Your comments got me thinking in a way that changed my life.”

Those words made my day. For two reasons. First, I felt delighted that I had made a difference in someone’s life. And second, I felt honored that someone that had listened to me … really listened.

You see, listening is one of the highest compliments you can ever give anyone.

When you fully listen to another person, you are in effect saying, “You are so important to me that I am committing myself to listen to you and only you right now. I will not let my mind wander. You’re getting all of my attention because you really matter to me.”

No wonder listening is one the top ten ways to build better, stronger, more positive and productive relationships, at home and on the job. Listening communicates importance and respect.

Unfortunately, poor listening is extremely common. One study asked several thousand workers to identify the most serious fault observed in executives. The most frequently cited response, mentioned by 68% of the respondents, was the boss’ failure to listen.

But they’re not alone. Most people of all ages, genders, races, job titles, family roles, and professional positions are terrible listeners. In fact, the research says that most people only get 25% of what is being said to them

That’s why I teach people how to more than triple their listening effectiveness during my Journey program. (F.Y.I. There are fewer than 10 seats at my last 2020 Journey program on November 12-13. For more info, go to www.attendthejourney.com)

Start using the following practices.

► 1. Decide to listen.

I’ll often ask people in one of my programs this question: “How many of you can turn on your ability to listen if you need to or want to?”

All the hands go up. So it’s obvious that good listening starts with your conscious decision to do so. If you DECIDE to listen, you WILL listen much more effectively.

Perhaps that’s where the old adage came from … about having two ears and one mouth. We were made to listen twice as much as we speak.

I remember one mother who had sternly instructed her son Josh to listen to the children’s sermon in church instead of goofing off. It worked.

The assistant pastor asked the kids, “What is gray, has a bushy tail, and gathers nuts in the fall?” Five-year old Josh raised his hand. He said, “I know the answer should be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”

► 2. Open your mind.

This is difficult because we all have confirmation bias. In other words, we tend to believe certain things and then tune into only those bits of information that confirm what we already believe.

For example, you may be guilty of entering conversations with preconceived ideas about another person or his topic of discussion. And once you have a preconceived idea in mind, it’s almost impossible to “hear” what the other person is saying. Your preconceptions act as a filter and you only hear what supports your preconceptions.

I see this closed-minded problem everywhere. I see it when managers ask, “What can you expect from the staff?” Preconceived notions rather than open-minded listening to their staff.

I see it when the employees say, “You can’t trust what they’re saying at the top.” More preconceived notions rather than open-minded listening to their leaders.

And I see it when customer service providers talk about their difficult customers, saying, “They’re all alike.” And still more preconceived notions rather than open-minded listening to their customers.

And now with our country in disarray, we’ve moved from a somewhat natural confirmation bias to a rabid confirmation bias. So much so that most people only watch or listen to the news outlets that support their preconceived political bias. Without even thinking about it, let alone seek out and listen for the whole truth, they automatically label the news from their pre-selected outlets as the truth and news from other sources as lies.

That’s dangerous. When you don’t listen to the whole truth, you endanger your work teams, your marriage, and even your nation. That’s why the Bible said, “The truth will set you free.” Nothing else will do.

To become a great listener, you must decide to listen … point #1. And you must listen with an open mind … point #2.


► 3. Remove physical barriers.

If you’re in a face-to-face conversation or meeting with someone, whether in person or virtually, your listening effectiveness will go down if have some “things” between you and the other person.

If you’re on a job site, for example, and there’s a piece of equipment between you and the other person, it will be harder to hear as well as pay attention.

If there’s a desk between you and somebody else, the desk may imply that one person is “above” the other, and that kind of discomfort will not help the listening process. One researcher found that only 11% of patients are at ease when the doctor sits behind a desk, but 55% of the patients are at ease when the desk is removed.

If you’re on a Zoom call and you have some other “things” around your screen, such as work to be done, emails to check, or texts to answer, you will find it extremely difficult to totally listen to the other person because your attention will wander off to those other items. And if someone clicks off their camera so you can’t see them during the call, chances are they don’t want you to see them only half listening to what they’re saying.

Final Thought: Listen … really listen to the other person using the three tips given above. It will be one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself or another person.