Paving the Path for Team Success - Removing Roadblocks

Julie Jones
While running errands, I came across road construction – a necessary evil that occurs every spring and summer. It was the dig up the dirt and shut down the roads type of construction that was very messy. However, this road construction experience made me laugh.  

There was a detour sign directing travelers to turn left at one point in the construction zone. But, turning left would put them in a large dirt pile where the road was closed. If you think about it, how often do employees face these kinds of unintended detours or roadblocks?

In service industries, we frequently customize work for the different customers served. We have implemented a variety of workflows, and it can become challenging for employees to follow a direct path to complete their work. Someone once told me that you must make it easy for people to do the right thing. How hard is it for employees to do the work we ask of them?

Think about the work process changes put in place, shifted, and then changed again for COVID. What is the new workflow? What changes will stick, and what do we need to roll back? Now may be the time to uncover the unintended obstacles blocking employees’ work paths. It could be policies or rules that no longer fit today’s work processes. Or how about the number of short-term solutions or workarounds created for COVID. Will the new solutions or workarounds become a long-term problem?

As leaders, how can we mitigate the obstacles faced by employees? How can we identify these obstacles? While it seems obvious, the cliché “walk a mile in someone’s shoes” is key. Job shadowing -- spending time with employees in their work roles, provides great insight into things we may not see from afar. Asking employees about their challenges in completing their job can offer new perspectives. The combination of observation and inquiry has many benefits -- for the employee who is pleased that someone is listening and for the leader to observe what actually happens each day. We sometimes forget the big picture – these observations can be critical tools to use for building relationships, as well as for future decision-making and change.   

Resetting the Roadway to Remove Obstacles in Employee’s Paths. Some actions to consider: 

  • Schedule 2-4 hours of job shadowing in the next few weeks with an employee or two.
  • Ask employees discovery questions about obstacles they face. Discovery questions are open-ended and meant to discover or learn more. They can be as simple as, “What are the greatest challenges you face in completing your work each day?”; “What suggestions or solutions have you thought of to resolve them? How can we, the managers or leaders, better support you in the work you do each day?”
  • Make a commitment to resolve at least one obstacle in the next few weeks after completing the experience. 

Given the historic staffing challenges, how can we make an impact with employees uncovering, acknowledging, and addressing employee concerns to promote employee retention?

What motivates employees to stay? In the 1970’s, Richard Ryan and Edward Deci developed the self-determination theory which grew out of their research on intrinsic motivation. What will motivate people to do something for its own sake without using external rewards? They identified three basic psychological needs, autonomy, competence (or mastery), and relatedness (or purpose) as key drivers of motivation. Consider how these translate in your workplace for employees. Recently, other researchers have noted the importance of belonging for employee motivation as well. Press Ganey, an experience survey company, also notes three “relationship” factors strongly influence employee engagement – employee to organization, employee to leader, and employee to other employees.

Removing obstacles in employee workflow, job shadowing and observation discovery are excellent methods to build relationships, resolve employee issues, promote employee engagement, and are good tools to employee retention tactics.

Consider taking the the Ruck-Shockey Learning Results Orientation course to help identify roadblocks that might impede your team's success.  

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