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5/1/2004 | 5 MINUTE READ

How to Spot Your "Dependables"

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Who are the people you can count on to follow through on an assignment and deliver results?


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Who are the people you can count on to follow through on an assignment and deliver results? If your company is a small organization, you probably know from experience—or think you do. If your company or department is large or experiences a lot of turnover, you may be less sure. Here are some clues to look for:

Consider performance, not noise. Automatically classifying a silent employee as a daydreamer could be a mistake. He may be too busy getting things done to talk much.

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. The person who is constantly on the telephone and rushing to appointments is not necessarily producing. He may be running away from a process that terrifies him —thinking.


Watch out for over-delegating. Beware of any senior member of your department who appears to be a whiz at delegating. He or she may merely be an expert at avoiding work. When everyone wants to delegate, the net result can be an overgrown, ponderous staff

Be suspicious of meeting callers. People who want to hold meetings at the drop of a hat are frequently avoiding responsibility for the decisions they should be making. Generally, the greater the do-it-yourself urge, the fewer the meetings.

Don’t fall for stereotypes. Just because someone is wiry, muscular or young, it doesn’t follow that he is a doer. By the same token, a portly, rounded, older employee could be your most productive worker. Doers come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

The Right Way to Celebrate a Victory

The inclination to relax and savor a particular achievement is very human, but it’s bad psychology. When you have accomplished something really worthwhile—solved a tough problem, developed a production breakthrough—don’t stop to celebrate. Go right on with your schedule. Tackle the next problem. After a victory, you’re brimming with confidence. Your enthusiasm, as well as your thought processes, is at concert pitch. This is the time to confront your next most nagging task. Failure doesn’t matter so much on the day of conquest because you’re already successful. In this relaxed, confident frame of mind, you will make some headway on those toughies. And even if you don’t, you’re laying a solid foundation for future accomplishment.

Want Cooperation? Explain Goals

Say, “Do this!” to a group of employees and a certain number will unquestionably do what you want. A smaller number will think, “Sounds crazy, but if that’s what you want, I’ll do it.” A still smaller number will think, “It’s a dumb order and I won’t do it.” Sometimes an employee is reluctant to cooperate because he remains unconvinced of the desirability, necessity or value of the goal you have set for him. Either you have not explained why he ought to do as you say or you have explained it poorly.

The remedy? Take whatever time may be necessary to explain the thinking behind your instructions. If you suspect the existence of mental reservations in an employee, invite his questions. So simple an observation as, “You seem unconvinced. What’s troubling you?” may be enough to extract his objection.

Once you get it out of him, there are two possibilities. Either you will persuade him that the goal is worth working for, in which case you will gain his cooperation, or he will persuade you that it is not worth pursuing, in which case you will be saved from making a mistake.

Selling with Fear

“Unless you order today, I can’t guarantee delivery by the fifteenth.”

“You wouldn’t want to risk personal injury, would you?”

Much effective selling is based on a threat, hidden or obvious. But just how powerful a selling tool is the old-fashioned scare? While much remains to be learned in this area, a good deal is already known about the efficacy of threat appeals in selling.

In a study, a group of Yale psychologists found that three things occur when prospects are exposed to a threat appeal. They think, “This might happen to me.” They grow tense. And their tension is reduced as they listen to the salesperson explain how to avert the threat. Most important, this reduction of tension operates as a reinforcement of the salesperson’s recommendations. However, there are three built-in pitfalls in the threat approach.


  1. Each of us is equipped with a kind of unconscious blackout system. When we experience or hear something too oppressive for comfort, we drop a curtain over it. Therefore, if the salesperson creates too much anxiety, the prospect simply tunes him out.
  2. Sometimes, when the threat creates more anxiety than we can tolerate, we react with aggression toward the source of the threat. In selling, this can take the form of a prospect rejecting or refusing to believe the salesperson. He may even form a deep dislike for the salesperson.
  3. If the threat is more than we can handle, we may develop a psychological defense against it. Scare a prospect too much and he may pull a blank when he later tries to recall what you said or lose interest in the subject altogether…or deny to himself the importance of the threat. In any case, he remains unsold.


In short, the threat is a powerful selling tool, to a point. Past that point, it ceases to sell at all; it simply paralyzes. The word: moderation.

How to Achieve Teamwork

Whether or not an organization enjoys a spirit of teamwork depends largely on you—the leader. If you see yourself as a uniquely talented individual whose main responsibility is telling others what to do, forget about teamwork. It hasn’t a chance in such an environment. On the other hand, if you think of yourself and your people as a group working toward common goals, you’re on the right track.

If you are aspiring to manage a true team, and not simply a collection of rugged individualists who happen to work near each other, here are some of the things you’ll have to work at:

Emphasizing team goals. Be sure that each of your people understands the group’s mission and his role in it. If a particular project will require one employee to be temporarily subordinate to another, explain that in advance to avoid possible conflicts later.

Linking individual accomplishment to team goals. Stress the importance of each individual’s contribution to the success of the group and the importance of the group’s success to each individual.

Accenting cooperation. As specifically as possible, explain how people can help one another. If you demonstrate that you expect cooperation, you are likely to get it. Don’t neglect pointing out that the degree to which people cooperate will be an important measure of individual performance.

In a nutshell: Good teamwork takes time, patience and constant attention. Above all, it takes a leader who is dedicated to the concept.



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