How to Improve Relationships: Making a Leap of Faith

~ A short story to illustrate my point ~

Top executives are  sitting at a board room table discussing what sort of changes they need to make to implement their employee retention rates. It’s the typical cast: CEO, CFO, COO, and a few other department heads with a management consultant attempting to guide the conversation. 

Consultant: “So the main issue is employee retention, we all agree on that, correct?”

Executive Board: Unanimously nods their heads in agreement (some sarcastically)

Consultant: “From what you’ve shown me, it seems like they are under strict watch at all times and there isn’t much freedom in your employees’ decision making. Nor is there much opportunity for bonuses”

CEO: “That’s because they mess a lot of things up and we always have to check their work, so we just monitor them closely instead of finding mistakes later. We just can’t trust most of our people with a lot of work”

Consultant: “OK… how about their paid vacation days? They seem to get the bare minimum and they have to jump through hoops of fire just to get an unscheduled day off approved. And is there any sort of incentive program in place?”

CFO: “Well we keep our budget very tight, we have a low margin business (which the consultant already knows) so we can’t afford to have people taking frivolous days off. And as far as bonuses, we don’t think that people should get paid extra for doing their jobs.”

This sort of excuse-making banter goes on for another hour or so until the consultant is ready to pull their hair out. They decide to lay it on the line and quit wasting everyone’s time. They executive board needs to hear some harsh truth.

Consultant: “If you are trying to improve your company culture and improve your retention rate, you have to make a leap of faith towards your employees. They are not just going to magically begin to love this company and start to work harder for you overnight. You have to show them real change and you have to step out there first, they are never going to jump out there on their own. Why should they? You haven’t. And you are the one that wants this relationship to improve. If they are fine just getting a paycheck till another job comes, they won’t change a thing.”

COO: “So what are you saying? We should just trust that our people will do better?

Consultant: “You are wanting your people to come to you, but you’re not giving them any real reason to stay. You have to make a leap of faith towards them, and they will come to you. Yes, there will be risk. Yes, there will be some bad eggs that try to take advantage of the system. But ultimately people will respond well and they will see that you are making the first step in improving the workplace for them. It’s not an overnight formula, but your retention rates will improve when you begin to make yourself more open to your people.”

End Scene

how to improve relationships Does this seem like your company? Or worse, do you seem like that group of executives? Wanting your people to stay and work harder for you, but you don’t want to give them much in return. Are you the kind of boss that says, “Your pay is your reward. You have a job, you should feel lucky.”

I hope I’m not stating the obvious here, but that’s not the way to treat people if you want to have a thriving culture and a trust-oriented environment. As an employer, and even a manager, we are in a position of leadership and we often need to put ourselves out there for our people before they can trust that our intentions are good.

It may seem risky. It may seem dangerous. But making that first move shows our people that we have faith in them. When they see that we have faith in them and that we are willing to risk something for them, they will go above and beyond the call of duty for us.

If you’ve ever been in a serious relationship you know this all too well. Most of the time both people don’t just “fall for each other” on one fateful night. Usually one person jumps first and has to hope that the other person wants to jump too. 

It’s the same for any coach and their players. My college coaches would spend 80-100+ hours a week breaking down film, coming up with strategy, making travel plans, and doing their best to win games. This was all in hopes that we, as players, would return the gesture and work as hard as we could to win games alongside them.

When a manager, a coach, a loved one, or an employer puts themselves out there by making a leap of faith, the results they get are amazing. If you want to know how to improve relationships, you have to make the first step. Otherwise you’ll be at that stand-still for quite some time…

Have you ever made a leap of faith to improve a relationship? How did you feel and what was the result?

Have a great week!