It’s Time to Engage ‘That’ Person

A little over a year ago, my wife and I bought a new house. Since inking the deal, we have invested much of our free time checking items off of our “to do” list. The cumulative effect of our efforts is that the house feels right – it’s comfortable – it’s home.

There are many things we value about our home.

  • It’s in a vibrant neighborhood and we can walk to stores and restaurants. On days when I feeling particularly motivated, I walk to work.
  • We’ve become friendly with several neighbors and have started to get involved in the community.
  • Most of all, the house itself is a great fit for us. We like the layout, size, and design.

Built in 1910, our home has no doubt seen its share of occupants. Some added value to the dwelling, others treated it poorly and caused damage.

I recently added a small cabinet to our home. Much like the home itself I wanted to find something unique and a way to add our touch to the place. In the quest to build the right piece, we found ourselves standing in an older building looking at reclaimed wood.

The store calls itself Good Wood. It’s motto is to reclaim / repurpose / renew.

A well organized ‘showroom’ of weathered barn wood, once discarded flooring, and enormous planks surrounded us.

We settled on a piece of cyprus.

Good Woods’ milling skills coupled with my efforts transformed the once overlooked timber into a floating shelf that rests above the cabinet I built.

The piece fits perfectly in our home. It adds value to our lives.

What’s the point of the story?

Our home and the shelf I built both share similar stories. At one point, they were overlooked and deemed replaceable or of little use.

  • Our home had fallen into disrepair, but instead of destroying it, someone made the decision to restore it.
  • The wood that serves as a critical element in our shelf had been overlooked for years until we chose to look at it differently and to repurpose it.

In reflecting on the ‘lives’ of our home and the shelf, a question occurred to me.

How often do we treat team members like the old house or the useless wood?

I believe the answer is – “all too often.”

I invite you to spend a moment considering your team or the broader organization.

  • Can you think of someone who was once a key part of the team – a good contributor – who is now burned out, disengaged, or deemed out-of-step with the organization?
  • How much latent potential is being overlooked in certain team members?
  • Who, like the house and the wood, would benefit from re-purposing themselves?

Now what?

Let’s be clear; people aren’t discarded wood or old houses. That’s where the analogy falls apart.

A house doesn’t decide to repair itself or refuse to take on a fresh coat of paint.

People can resist even your best attempts to help them flourish regardless of how well intended your efforts. However, the potential for pushback, rejection, or even rebellion shouldn’t keep you from doing the right thing.

Here are four steps to get you started.

  1. Reach out to the overlooked or disengaged employee. Invite him to grab a cup of coffee with you.
  2. Share your intentions for the conversation.
  3. When you sit down to talk, share your observations. Be forthright, but not disrespectful.
  4. Ask him what he thinks. Then, listen – really listen. You may have to probe a bit by asking further questions.

You may be pleasantly surprised where his answer takes the two of you.