If you ever asked anybody about some of America’s most notorious criminals, no doubt most people would say what they did was wrong, but what did these criminals think of themselves? Two Gun Crowley, a cop killer at the age of 18, wrote a letter while being gunned down by the NYPD stating ‘Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one—one that would do nobody harm’. Al Capone was quoted as saying “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man”.

If some of the worst criminals to walk this earth can’t see the errors in their ways, and become defensive when criticized, are we surprised that our employees become defensive when directly criticized right off the bat? 99 times out of 100 our employees will not criticize something they have done, regardless of how wrong it is. Everyone (including animals!) tends to grow and improve much more rapidly when they are rewarded for good behavior more often than when they are punished and criticized for poor behavior. I’m sure we can all remember the last time we reprimanded our agents, but can you remember that last time you recognized them when they did well?

George B. Johnston was the safety coordinator for an engineering company, and one of his duties was to make sure the employees were wearing hardhats. Whenever he came across someone who was not wearing their hardhat he would reprimand them and demand they wear it. They would sullenly put it back on, and take it off as soon as he was gone. Although it was something they were doing wrong, the criticism wasn’t effective. Finally he decided to change is approach, the next time he came across someone who was not wearing their hardhat instead of demanding they put it back on he kindly explained that the hats were for their own safety and respectfully asked that they wear it for their own good. This approach was much more effective than the forceful, condemning, approach he has used before.

So how do we keep from jumping to criticism right off the bat? Today let’s keep our focus on the way we approach people. Instead of jumping to condemn and criticize whatever they are doing, let’s try to go about it better. One of the Garff principles is to suspend judgment, let’s focus on suspending our judgment until after we approach our employees. For example let’s take an agent that is a chronic offender for long lunches or breaks, and is accumulating points quickly. Currently we tend to reprimand them harshly and take on the mindset that ‘at least they won’t be here for long with how many points they are getting’.  Instead why can’t we get the same message across more tactfully? We could pull them aside, sincerely express our concern for their rapid accumulation of points, and inquire if there is something that is holding them back from being on time. It could be as simple as them losing track of time, and having them use a timer could solve the issue. How embarrassing for us to lose a team member over that!

So today let’s focus on suspending judgment before we confront our team members, and let’s pay special attention to the way we confront our employees!

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