When training labor professionals in communication or business development I begin with trying to change their orientation to problem-solving. See without even knowing it, most of them have created a handicap with their relationships with their signatory employers, who really need to be there for them when a favor is required or a testimonial provided.
The question I ask labor professionals is this. When one of your employers hears that you are on the phone calling for them what do they immediately think?
They think, here comes a problem. Why, because that is the only time you communicate with them.
Contractors and employers value problem solvers. They are surrounded by trusted people who work with them every day to solve problems and create opportunity. You, on the other hand, are a “problem-bringer”. Fair or not, there is rarely a perception of you bringing any value at all. You are just another problem to be solved that does not add anything to the success or value of the business. That is not the place any labor professional wants to be.
In the training program, I teach how to transform that relationship from “problem bringer” to trusted ally. Why is this important? Because in business the quality of the relationship most often determines the value of the relationship. If you want to be able to utilize powerful relationships to advance your goals you have to have something to offer in return.
There are a lot more than these three, but in service of changing labor relationships (especially for new agents or organizers) I suggest these ideas:
- Call two employers a week. Five-minute call or less. Check in with them. Ask what they need. Tell them about upcoming training. Be brief, polite and don’t bring them a problem. If you talk to 100 employers a year – or some of them numerous times, they will no longer think problem when you call. They will think opportunity and partner. Ten minutes a week? Yes, everyone has that time, but most don’t have the discipline.
- Set up a communications schedule with all your employers. Newsletter? E-mail? Annual training report? Letter from the Business Manager? Why? Because if you want your employers to remember what you did for them every three years when you are negotiating a new agreement, you better be telling them about it in between. If you don’t communicate your value and achievements to those who are working with you why would you expect them to enthusiastically reward you. Most unions communicate well to everyone except their employers.
- Don’t be a compliance-minded representative. This is especially important for new agents. Don’t go out with your contract and your save the world attitude, or worse your half-informed view of the employer. Diplomacy and relationship building go a long, long way in their business. I know dozens of really great agents and Business Managers who laugh and shake their heads remembering how lame they were their first few years trying to be important instead of being useful, professional and outcome driven.
If you are looking to provide this kind of training to your labor professionals, email Jackie Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (925) 705-7662.
Don’t be the problem. Be the solution. Don’t be the problem. Be a trusted ally. Don’t be the problem. Be the person that has so much good will and favors owed to you that when you need what you need, you don’t even have to ask.