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From Turnover to Thriving…Create Stick!

Posted on June 20, 2023

Welcome to CLA’s Manufacturing Leadership series. My name is Thomas Schultz, and I’m a human resources consultant at CLA, and your host for “From Turnover to Thriving,” a series of video blogs.  In this series, we’ll share several topics to help manufacturing and distribution organizations to thrive. We work with manufacturers and distributors of all types across the country and around the world.

Today we’re going to talk about one specific area:  “Creating STICK.”

I’ll start with a short story, an old friend of mine I hired years ago as a quality manager is now, fifteen years later, the President of an organization. Recently he hired an individual in an engineering role. In a meeting with him and the newly hired manager, I asked her a question, “So what causes you to stick?”

With a curious look, she asked… “do you mean, what causes me to stay?” And my answer was “Well, no; because there are employees who stay that probably shouldn’t.”

This got her thinking because obviously, I knew my friend wanted an employee who was coming back to work because she wanted to be there.  And that’s really what a lot of what all of us would like in our workplaces.

After some thought, her answer combined two things that caused her to stick:  the character of the President, and the scope of the scope she would be instrumental in developing.

Building Culture One Phrase at a Time

This story is more than just about asking questions.  It’s about how we engage others in a way that contributes to building a culture where people stick.

There are five simple words that can get you thinking about what can create stick. Creating stick means having interaction, listening, and caring.

Regardless of the outcome of any one conversation, using these five words carefully can result in the other person leaving that conversation with a good mindset. They may not always agree with us. They may not even think that we’re right yet.  But the experience created wasn’t offensive and actually contributed to improved retention.

How do you do that? The first three of the five words are words that I really like and use as often as I can. Of the remaining two words, one you must be careful with, and the other you might want to avoid.  The goal of the right use of these words is trying to create stick with all staff, from the office to the production floor itself.

Three Words to Use More, Two Words to Use Less

So, what are the three words that help to build stick?  They are: “when, where, and how.”  I’ve used each word in the simplest turn of phrase possible.  The word I personally am careful with is “what” and the word I try and minimize is “why.”

Compare this set:

  • “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”
  • “When did that happen?”
  • “Where did that come from?”

With this set:

  • “What were the factors that went into that?”
  • “Why did that happen?”

The first set comes from a place of curiosity, where you sound genuinely interested and want to understand.  You collaborate with the other person to gather information.

In the second set, the questions shift from collaborative to potentially judgmental.  While not intended, these might be misunderstood and imply “what were you thinking?”  And instead of creating stick…it can be something else.  You may inadvertently cause the person to feel defensive, in a “prove it” kind of mindset.

Why why is tricky

Some might push back and argue that the word “why” should be back on the list.  Here are a few reasons why “why” is less strong of a choice.  There is a time and a place for asking “why.”  When you’re doing Six Sigma work, you have to ask “why.”  I also understand that there are many who do a very good job of coaching, and you are able to ask “why” without sounding critical.

In this case though, if you’re trying to create stick and collaborate, reserve “why” for problem solving vs. relationship building.  The result?  A better environment where people just work well together.

Key takeaways

Creating stick is all about conversations that build good relationships.  Focusing on more collaboration using “how”, “when”, and “where” for people building…and reserve the “why” and what for problem solving.

Looking to more ways to improve stick in your company?   Let’s talk.