Today’s show is on Pivot Points. Listen to the show on iTunes and Stitcher.

Don [00:00:00] A manager can identify pivot points typically around behavioral issues, performance issues in the workplace. The reason I want us to focus on points where people pivot is because it gives managers skills to impact behavior other than being negative and punitive.

Don [00:00:18] My name is Don Rheem CEO of E3 Solutions and author of the book, “Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.”

Don [00:00:27] I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement and I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized and valued. Employees who feel safe are happier, healthier and more productive.

Don [00:00:45] Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers and we offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges. And, you’re listening to Thrive By Design, a podcast created by E3 Solutions to give managers, CEOs and leaders the tips, strategies and tools needed to create an engaged culture at work.

Kelly [00:01:10] Welcome. I’m your host, Kelly Burns, vice president of client experiences at E3 Solutions.

Kelly [00:01:16] As always we tackle critical workplace themes each week with our resident expert and CEO, Don Rheem. Welcome Don and thank you for taking the time to be here with us.

Don [00:01:26] It’s my pleasure Kelly.

Kelly [00:01:27] As we heard at the top of today’s episode, this week’s focus is on how to identify pivot points with your employees.

Kelly [00:01:33] You know, we all experienced pivot points in our life. They can be really powerful moments. I’m currently expecting my second child and when this baby’s born it’s going to be another pivot point in how I focus my life and how I pay attention to what I care about and how I want to raise this child.

Kelly [00:01:49] Sometimes we have pivot points around the unexpected loss of a job and maybe that causes us to pursue our dreams finally. Having a child a grandchild be born might cause a grandparent to pick up exercise or stop smoking or create healthy behaviors that help them be able to see that child walk down the aisle in 20 years. Twenty. Who gets married at 20?

Don [00:02:13] What I want to talk about are these pivot points that are more behavioral. And, you talked about behavioral points but I want to talk about it from a behavior at work. Things that people are doing at work and how do I get them to pivot away from that. This is what we mean by a pivot point.

Don [00:02:28] There is no random, extra energy in the brain for us as a species to do random things. And the point is there, that neuroscientists would tell us, everything people do, they do for a reason. So there is a perceived reward somewhere in the brain for doing it that way.

Don [00:02:46] I’ll use the example of gossip. This is one of the hardest things that we’ve worked on to try to put the brakes on, inside an organization. Very hard to control gossip and when it happens and where it happens. I’m now looking for a pivot point in our practice.

Don [00:03:01] How do you get someone who’s gossiping to stop gossiping? And, this by the way, I’m talking about pivot points when no one’s looking. You can get anyone to change their behavior if you’re right there and telling them and looking over their shoulder. I’m talking about the kind of pivot points where people change their behavior when no one’s there when no one’s watching.

Don [00:03:19] What we have to start with is to understand that there are rewards to being a gossiper and then I’ll ask you Kelly. What could you imagine some rewards being for a gossiper? Why might that be something that seems like a good idea to people?

Kelly [00:03:32] I like feeling in the know and I like being the person in the know that gets to tell other people things.

Don [00:03:37] Being in the know, having people just listen to you. You’ve got something they don’t and they want to know, how does she know? How did that happen?

Don [00:03:45] They want to change the narrative in the organization. They want their view to prevail. So they’re trying to change the tenor, the tone of the conversation to be something that fits more with them. For example, they might be cynical about the organization or its leaders. And, so they’re gossip is going to be to encourage that that frame or that view.

Don [00:04:04] So, what we need to do, what I want managers to be able to do, to be more adept at doing is, understanding how can I change that reward? How can I create a different reward that trumps the original for the gossiper? And, this is what a pivot point is all about.

Don [00:04:19] Now one of the ways we do this in workshops and I’ve talked about this earlier in an earlier podcast. The process here, the procedure here is called, creating a shared sense of social identity. And, the very practical way and I’ll do this in a truncated way.

Don [00:04:33] You want to start with a value. And, I love the value and hopefully it’s a core value for the organization. I’m just going to pick integrity. I love that as a value to use whether it’s a core value in your organization or not feel free to use it.

Don [00:04:46] So you would write integrity down on a whiteboard or a flip chart and you want to create a sense of shared social identity around it. So you just ask the team in the room, how many of you see yourself as a person with integrity? And because it’s such a highly held value, it’s at such a high altitude virtually everyone in the room should raise their hand.

Don [00:05:05] There just aren’t many people that wake up in the morning and say, now, that integrity thing, that’s not for me.

Kelly [00:05:09] And you don’t want to employ those people.

Don [00:05:11] No you don’t. Hopefully, they’ve been winnowed out already. So you get everyone to agree that they’re a person of integrity and then you simply ask, so, what does that look like in the workplace? And, you ask them to tell you and they say things like, do the right thing, follow through on your commitments, be trustworthy, be honest.

Don [00:05:26] They’re just giving you this list of things and then you turn and this is where we’re going to use contrast, which helps adults learn quickly. I mean use contrast I’m going to turn to the groups I’m going to say, what about gossip? Is that a sign of someone who has integrity? And every head in the room will shake, no. Even though they know they do it and that moment that’s really the only answer. It does lack integrity to do that, at least 99 out of 100 will, in my opinion.

Don [00:05:51] So now what you’ve done here, the reason this creates a pivot point is because if they’re going to go out and gossip they have to admit that they’re a person who lacks integrity. My hope and my expectation is and our work doing this has demonstrated that the desire to be a person of integrity will trump the reward of being the person in the know or the person trying to create their own narrative.

Don [00:06:14] So it has an impact of gating their own behavior. The other part of this is that if I now am gossiping and I’ve come into your office, Kelly, and I’m gossiping away, you typically would not feel neutral in this. You feel a little icky just listening to it because you’re thinking, hey, we talked about this and we said we weren’t gonna gossip anymore. So you’re much more likely to say, hey Don, I don’t feel comfortable with this. We said we weren’t going to do this anymore.

Don [00:06:40] And, if I’ve come into your office to gossip to you it’s because I respect you and I want you to be in my camp. If you rebuff me once, certainly twice, I’ll probably never come into your office again because I won’t get the reward that I want. So this is just it’s an example of how to create a pivot point.

Don [00:06:59] And it also relates to something else we’ve talked about which is accountability. And the key thing here about accountability is it’s always in relationship to something else. In other words, what will a person be held accountable to? And that last example, they’re going to be held accountable to a value, integrity. But there are lots of other things that can be used to determine this. What will someone pivot as a result of?

Don [00:07:24] The more a manager knows about an employee outside of what they’re doing at work, the more they’re going to be able to identify what a pivot point is going to be for an individual. That is, what will they be held accountable to.

Don [00:07:37] It really helps if managers understand their employees and they’re looking for these things and a way to do this is fairly straightforward. The manager would look for a point when an employee is really excited about something or there’s you know high-fives are going around, people are really excited. And, the manager can ask them either right then in the group or later, say, hey Kelly, I just saw you’re really excited about this. What excited you the most? And, one employee will say, I was just so pleased I didn’t think I could do this well and I was just so pleased that I saw the challenge and I applied myself and I got it done.

Don [00:08:11] Another employee will say, I love the way the team came together and I loved how we worked so well as a team. And, another employee will say, I just know that customers are going to love this outcome and the fact that we’ve improved the customer experience it just gets me excited. So, now what the manager knows is what resonates with this employee. Is it their own personal growth, personal challenges? Is it the team and doing things as a team? Is it customers, client? Is it mission and vision? And, understand these points because then the manager can use those issues as these points of pivot.

Kelly [00:08:43] How can a leader recognize when a pivot point is needed?

Don [00:08:46] A manager can identify pivot points typically around behavioral issues, performance issues in the workplace. And the reason I want us to focus on points where people pivot is because it gives managers skills to impact behavior other than being negative and punitive and that opens up a whole new way of creating team connection and the emotional velcro inside a team.

Kelly [00:09:11] You mentioned using a core value of integrity to stop gossip in the workplace. What situations is a manager going to need to recognize that they have to instill a pivot point in an employee? I know toxic behaviors in and a team are really going to impact engagement. Is that one or the only situation in which a pivot point really works?

Don [00:09:31] No, there just any behaviors, for example, that aren’t congruent with core values, behaviors that have a direct impact on the customer experience, things that they do where they’re simply underperforming. It could be something as simple as regularly showing up late for meetings. It’s any point where the manager is essentially saying, I just wish Marjorie would do this differently. I just wish she would stop doing this or start doing this.

Don [00:09:59] And, the old model is the manager would just rush in and either tell them what to do or to come down in a punitive way, say if you don’t stop this work you’re going to be written up. So we are always looking for non-negative ways to impact people’s behavior because the non-negative way is going to be more effective in the long run. And it also just demonstrates more leadership skill.

Don [00:10:22] Look, anybody can get angry, yell, point fingers, say, I’m gonna write you up or you can be replaced. There’s no leadership skill in simply, being punitive. We’re trying to put new tools in the leadership tool bag for managers so that they can do things in a way that’s not just different but has better outcomes.

Kelly [00:10:43] How do you work with an employee when you need to create an individual pivot point and that employee isn’t really showing that they’re driven by the corporate core value or shared social identity? How do you customize pivot points to the individual employee in a way that makes it more effective?

Don [00:11:03] There’s some different layers, if you will, on how to do this and I’ll just talk about some of the options. If it’s not around core values of the company you can talk about mission of the organization. This is especially applicable in nonprofits where the mission of the organization is very compelling to people and often why they sought employment there in the first place. It could simply be around customers or clients and we see this especially in the health care field where there often is a lot of unhappiness if you will among nurses, for example.

Don [00:11:35] Nurses are often fairly unhappy about how they’re paid or treated or whatever but when you ask them why do you come to work every day, why do you still show up and do what you do, the way you do it. They talk about the customer, the client, the patient, helping people heal. So that’s going to be something they’re going to be held accountable to.

Don [00:11:51] It can be the team. We’re relational animals. We’re social animals. We’re hardwired as herd animals and sometimes talking to them about the impact of their behavior on the team, making them more self-aware of this relational aspect of the team. It’s, Kelly, the team has gotten to the point where they can’t count on you and they just don’t know if you’re actually going to get the job done.

Don [00:12:13] So now the whole team is worried about, can we do this successfully. And individuals, employees will respond typically in two ways one they go, oh, I don’t want that. And, I had no idea. And they’ll be responsive to it or they’ll say, yeah well they just need to get their head straight because it’s just the way I roll. That second response is gonna take you to another level.

Don [00:12:36] If it’s not going to be the team and this can be where I can simply talk about consequences and these consequences can be again to quality. It can be to the customer but it also can be to their job security. We can talk about look there are consequences to this behavior and these consequences don’t work for me as a manager and I don’t think they’re really what would work for you either.

Don [00:13:00] So, I’m okay to go to consequences, that’s probably the last place I’m gonna go.

Kelly [00:13:05] Right and I think for many leaders it’s often the first place they go. It’s the easiest one to instill a sense of fear in and course correction but not necessarily the most effective, certainly for increasing engagement.

Don [00:13:17] No, it just isn’t.

Kelly [00:13:19] One of the ways, I guess, I would categorize this in my mind is that we’re all motivated by a number of different things and as a leader understands what motivates their individual employees they’re going to be so much more effective in instilling pivot points that change, whether it’s behavior or performance, in a way that helps that employee operate at a high performing level and benefits the team.

Kelly [00:13:40] We’re externally motivated. So say it’s a team issue. My external motivation would be that I don’t want to see the team crumble or fall apart or impact the team in a negative way. My internal motivation might be because, I, as a hardwired to belong human being as we all are, want to feel safe and secure in the team so I need to operate in a different way to help establish or maintain that sense of belonging.

Kelly [00:14:07] And maybe there’s a bit of a philosophical motivation there that I care about the impact, that the work that we’re doing has on our patients, our customers, our clients, I believe in it. You mentioned the mission and vision, all three of those levels the external motivation, the internal motivation, the for lack of a better term, philosophical motivation could really drive a pivot point for an employee. But maybe one of them stands a little bit stronger than the others and knowing your employees well would really help you tailor that pivot point more specifically.

Don [00:14:36] This relates to something I mentioned at the top of the broadcast and it’s about reward and how the brain receives reward. And, I don’t mean that your prefrontal cortex the cognitive thoughtful part of what your brain does but in the background and the subconscious that the limbic system considers to be reward. And, it is all about connection and being in a group.

Don [00:14:54] But we want to identify what are the rewards that really resonate with this person because if someone is doing a behavior that is not helpful to the organization, the team or the leader I need to understand what reward does this person hold in higher esteem? And, I need to go to that reward.

Don [00:15:12] And, this is again talking about what people going to be held accountable to. And sometimes at the very end of the day, the thing that they’re most likely to be held accountable to might be these are for the ones where mission, vision, the team doesn’t work but it’s their family and being a provider for their family. It’s looking good in the face of their family. If we know the family is really important to someone a manager can even bring that up. Look, I know you want what’s best for your family and I know you love your family. And these behaviors are not going to help you professionally. They’re getting in your way of progressing and achieving some of the goals that I know you’ve talked about that you want for your family. If that’s where I have to go to understand this reward, that’s going to serve as a point where they pivot and do something differently, that’s okay.

Kelly [00:15:59] Is there a difference in the way that a leader can use pivot points related to the individual which is what I think we’ve spent a lot of time talking about versus a team or organization that truly just needs to pivot as a group as a whole?

Don [00:16:14] Well yes and so we can use the same type of exercise that I mentioned around integrity, which is like this 30,000-foot value but let’s drop an altitude. Let come down to do an exercise around what’s a good team player.

Don [00:16:25] As a group, how are we going to define being a good team player? What does that mean for us? And, let them start and let them share with you. Well, a team member supports their colleague, does what they’re supposed to do, gets things done on time. They’re going to give you this list of what they believe a good team player is and then the manager can simply turn and say hey, are we saying that these should be best practices for us as a team and team members? That this is almost a commitment or a promise that we’re making to each other? That this is how we’re going to behave? And that’s okay. When they’ve done that together that actually fits with what we know in the way the brain is organized.

Don [00:17:03] Whenever you thought we began, hundreds of thousands of years or less than that, doesn’t matter, but every single day your success and survival depended upon you being in a group. And, so I want to rely on that hardwired message about being in a group is important. And how can we strengthen that group in that relationship?

Don [00:17:21] It’s really important to us, we love it, for example, Kelly, one of the open-ended questions we ask in our survey and I’ve mentioned this before but it’s important is, what are the three reasons why you like working here? And when they say words like, it feels like family. I work with great people. We just know there’s emotional velcro there. That’s what they look forward to coming to work. And in this environment of this tight labor market we’re in, managers need to be focused on how to create the conditions where employees look forward to coming to work. And, for many employees, the reason they look forward to coming to work is the team and the people they get to work with.

Don [00:17:58] So they’re much more likely to be accountable to that team. And so managers can put things in that team perspective, hey, the team needs this. The team’s counting on you or members of the team are worried that they can’t count on you. And, I know that’s not what you want them to think. These are important pivot points.

Don [00:18:15] The most likely way a normal human being is going to pivot is based on relationships. A relationship with the leader, a relationship with the team, a relationship to the mission and vision of the organization.

Kelly [00:18:29] That’s it for today. I’m your host Kelly Burns and thank you for listening. Tune in to next week’s episode on creating a culture of celebration at work.

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Kelly [00:19:02] Thrive By Design is produced and audio engineered by Megan Rummler.

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