- Posted August 16, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
Lead the Youth, make a difference.
This generation needs it’s adults to care about them. It’s not enough to pay for things. You also have to talk to them. It’s not enough to say “how was your day at school?” them respond with two words and count that as talking. Get ready, this article is going to punch you in the head.
I work with 16-20 year old kids all day every day. I get a new batch of them about every 4-6 months. My main job description is to tear them down and make them into something other than a bucket of shit. It seems with very few exceptions that you have to break most kids. I enjoy that. I have discovered most people really hate or avoid being the bad cop. It’s one of my favorite things to do. My thing is this, if you do well I will be a loud supporter and we’ll have a good time. If you screw up, your ass is mine. All of them screw up exactly once. I provide a lot of tough love. I am running a business not a daycare. I don’t care about your feelings, I care about my bottom line. Either you can do the job or you can’t, and if you can’t you need to get the f*ck out.
Sounds rough. I am called ‘the little dictator.’ At first, everyone hates me. Then they notice how hard their job was at the beginning when everyone sucked and how tough love got them all very good and quick and now how they don’t work very hard. They notice how when they are all doing it right and quickly we laugh, tell jokes and stories and have a great time. After a few months they notice how it’s hardly like work anymore.
The other bosses and the owner seem befuddled. Early on, everyone thought I was an asshole who was going to run all these kids off. They thought I was just being cruel for sport. They thought I was the problem. After I trained a batch of them, they decided I am now the person who trains new people. Their shifts are incredibly easy with my people. I don’t treat them like children. I give them responsibility. I give them expectations. I set them fairly high and I demand they achieve the goals. All my other bosses have to do is keep their foot on the gas pedal.
Before I arrived, the group that was already trained spent most of the shift screwing around, doing things slowly and poorly. All the bosses spent the entire shifts putting out one fire after another and working very hard. Now, we can basically watch and look for potential trouble. We are about to post the second banner quarter in a row.
The next step is teaching the kids about leadership. I talk to them about having a toolbox. Figuring out their strengths. Really examining their weakness. I pull reports and show them with facts where they stack. I tell them if they rank last. If needed, I’ll publicly shame the slowest people if they are considerably slower than the pack but that’s rare. I don’t believe in coddling. I don’t believe in sugar coating. Either you’re doing well or you’re doing terrible and with me you always know exactly where you stand. That gets a ton of respect from everyone.
What I discuss increasingly so with them is about responsibility. Leaders don’t point fingers. Leaders don’t turn down hard assignments. Leaders don’t duck the busy times. Leaders don’t run from the flames they run toward them. Leaders think about others before themselves. Leaders are the first in and the last to leave. Leaders are thinking on the next level. Leaders are thinking about what things are going to happen before they do and how to be ready and to ready their co-workers.
What I’ve created is an environment where no one ducks responsibility. No one runs. Everyone shows up early and no one calls in without at least finding someone suitable to fill-in – and they follow-up to make sure things went well. These kids are tough. They don’t back talk. They take instruction the first time. They are getting to the point where they are beating me to the instructions and asking about the next thing to build off of it to make it better. Now, every so often one will have an off day and they’ll screw something up. I get their attention and they know. Conversation lasts seconds. Basically it consists of “hey! What the hell is this?” and the response is “oh crap, that’s my fault I won’t let it happen again, I’m sorry.” And it’s smooth. Acknowledge you made a mistake. Tell me you understand what it is and ensure it won’t continue and an apology for the mistake is nice – it keeps my foot from being placed in their ass.
Costs are down. Productivity is through the roof. Posting the best times in years. Customers are constantly raving about how the quality has improved. I did the same thing at another location about a year ago, and when I left I told the owner there that if he failed to continue what I started he was going to struggle. The kids left a month after I left. His business is now out of business. I tried to tell him. I tried to teach them.
Stop coddling these kids. Parents, talk to your kids and demand excellence. I think the problem most people have with demanding excellence out of other people is that you have to be perfect yourself. While that’s mostly true, I make mistakes but I also own them. I don’t shift blame. I don’t hesitate to accept the responsibility. I tell the kids when I screw up and how I did it and what I should have done then I show them how to fix it. I like to tell them how much mistakes cost. In life, I wish parents took the same attitude. You’re not perfect but you’re trying to be the best you can. You make mistakes. You say things you shouldn’t. You forget to do things. Admit you’re wrong. Tell them, hey this went sideways but I’ll do this to try and make it right and I won’t let it happen again. It’s okay to be wrong, once. Don’t make the same mistake twice.
Don’t be afraid to put your foot in their ass. Their strong and resilient. Kids need direction. They desperately need direction. They need a strong figure to show them the right way and not accept or allow the wrong way. They need to know you care enough about them to get mad. They need to know you will fight for them and fight against them when they are doing things wrong. They need to know you are there. You’re not going anywhere. If they follow you, they will learn, they will get better, and you will respect them.
Some people have said that when I am breaking them that it’s bad for them. To a person when asked they smile and laugh. They state they understand and even though it hurt at the time it made them better. It made them stronger. They acknowledge they quickly had to learn.
Parents, set expectations. Enforce it. I never once had to threaten anyone. I will make fun of them. I will ask them if they thought I could bring a chimp in and if they thought a chimp could do a comparable job and work for bananas. I will slam things and glare at them. They know the look. Once you gain their respect through working hard and showing that you run this place, they want to do right. They want your approval. When they do right, give them some love. Break out a fist bump. Buy them a coke. Believe it or not, people will work for little, care a lot so long as they believe in themselves, the people they work with and believe other people care. They will respond more to a fist bump and some vocal accolades than to a raise. I have never seen anyone work harder after getting a raise. I have seen people work much harder after a fist bump.