Preventive maintenance is something that many of us talk about, but never seem to get around to completing. Basically, preventive maintenance is conducted to keep equipment or a facility working efficiently and extend its operating lifespan. The primary goal of maintenance is to reduce the chances of costly failure of equipment or major repairs to structures by incrementally investing in maintaining it at a minimal standard.
The most common place we deal with preventive maintenance on a regular basis is at our home. If you are like I am, you may allow projects to build up over time. It can be the money or time that becomes the justification for waiting until later. However, the problem with not addressing little things over time is that little things become big problems. A number of years ago, I had a small leak in the roofing above the sun room. It really did not seem to be much and I told myself that I would figure out how to seal it the next weekend. Not surprisingly, after a few weeks of forgetting about it, the small leak ended up becoming a big leak that became noticeable to anyone sitting on the couch from the nice stain that discolored the white ceiling. Although it was humorous to tell people it looks like the dog had an accident on the ceiling, I was frustrated that I had let the small issue become a big problem.
Recently, I have been asked a lot about the recession’s impact of anxiety and fatigue present among the workforce. Obviously, it is extremely difficult for those that are looking for work, but the downturn has also taken its toll on those with jobs. Although the hopelessness of the last few years seems to be waning among employees as the economy slowly improves, there is still a pronounced melancholy among many workers related to future uncertainty, eroding standard of living, and more workplace demands.
As leaders, we have to ask ourselves daily: what can we do to improve the situation for those employees that have stuck with us during these tough economic times? Several groups that I have worked in the last few weeks have debated the best approach to adopt. Some argued that praise or reward can wait until the downturn is over and resources are really available, while the other opinion centered on doing small things now. As l listened to both viewpoints and identified the merits of each, the two positions reminded me of the importance of preventive maintenance. The small leak will become large over time if it is not addressed. For most of us, we really cannot afford the loss of productivity and results that go along with real trouble. With that in mind, there are three things that we call can do now that is effective and preventive:
- Acknowledge role
- Be emphatic
- Discuss future
As we discussed in the last post, recognition is a big part of what makes someone feel respected and important. The same is true for when we recognize someone for their contribution. Although in these times it may be easy to justify not providing recognition due to the value of just having a job, we have to go beyond a simple cost-benefit way of thinking and bigger picture of overall, long term productivity. It is imperative that we thank those that are working harder for staying the course during these turbulent times.
As we all have to work harder and experience the associated stress, it can be hard to take the time to be emphatic to those around us. Although not easy, it is a very powerful tool to put yourself into “someone else’s shoes.” Ugo Uche on his blog for Psychology Today puts it very well: “The bottom line is, there is courage gained in understanding others.” By going outside of our own frame of reference and trying to understand someone else’s point of view adds clarity of thoughts and feelings, but more importantly, shows that we care about those around us.
We all want to have hope, especially in bad times. A common metaphor that I have heard from a few employees in different organizations is that the current situation is like being in a dark tunnel on train tracks and hoping to find the light at the end. A more humorous response that I have heard lately that come from managers during these “tunnel” discussions is that it is hard to tell if the light is the end of the tunnel or the oncoming train. Employees need to be reassured that things will improve in the future at some point and through this hope stronger bonds are developed.
A small investment can make a big difference in the future of your organization. By not doing these things, the future is very likely to be less productive than the present and create a hangover of sorts after the economic downturn.