What keeps you up at night? If you’re like most rental professionals I talk to, the answer is simple: “People.”
This topic came up recently when I sat next to the senior vice president of a major rental chain at a press dinner. Like many in the industry, he commented on the shortage of service techs and the difficulty in finding young people who want to get their hands dirty — but he also said something else which caught my attention. In addition to all the usual challenges that go along with managing people — hiring, firing, training, keeping them motivated and so on — he said the most vexing issue is employees’ lack of trust in management.
As a senior vice president, my dinner companion frequently visits branch locations to learn how things are going from employees. A lot of employees, he said, have trouble being honest about their problems and challenges. He supposes many don’t like to volunteer information that suggests things might need improvement because they’re afraid it could reflect badly on them. While understandable, it’s frustrating because no one is better equipped to reveal and fix operational problems than the people who deal with them on a daily basis. The challenge, he says, is getting employees to be honest with and trust management.
Failing to be honest about problems can curtail progress. So how can managers foster honesty and trust among employees? I don’t have any pat answers for you, but maybe we can approach it from the other side. What if, as employees, we all resolved to tell it like it is more often? This is not a license to whine but rather a recommitment to frank realism. No more sugar coating and sandbagging, just the straightforward facts.
Of course, honesty requires trust, and trust is best when it’s reciprocal — like all good things in life, you have to give it to get it. So, as the new year approaches, why not resolve to work toward a new level of honesty between management and employees? It has to begin with trust. And like Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”