When an Employee Just Isn’t Cutting It

badappleOne of the most challenging situations that faces any leader is having to deal with a wrong fit employee. Leaders should, of course, give the employee a chance to improve through coaching, additional training, etc. But when those remedies don’t work, we have to let the wrong fit employee go. I find that too many leaders avoid the situation far too long, causing frustration for customers and for other employees.

Delay tactics are often justified with statements like, “Opinions about performance issues are sometimes too subjective to take such drastic action.” Management guru Mark Sanborn addresses the issue in a blog post titled, “7 Clues You’ve Got the Wrong Person on Your Team.” I especially like clue #1. While a certain amount of subjectivity might still be involved in such difficult people decisions, Mark’s list sure helps clarify the situation.

Completing Tasks Versus Creating Experiences – Pike’s Place Fish Market

In this video I showcase the world-famous Pike’s Place Fish Market as an example of taking a routine task (selling fish) and turning it into an experience that delights customers.

Indifferent Service – The Silent Killer of Customer Loyalty

In this video I share the elements that differentiate caring customer service from indifferent customer service. If you received this blog post via email, you may need to click here to view the video.

Taking Pride In the Job

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My wife and I are in the middle of a major home interior renovation. Seeing my home completely torn up has caused me several times to get on my knees and ask my wife, “How did I let you talk me into this?” She quietly assures me that it will be worth it when it’s done. She seems so sure of herself that it calms me (at least for a few minutes).

Right now workers are installing travertine throughout the house. I must say that seeing them work does bring me a sense of confidence because of the very evident pride they take in their work. In fact, rather than workers, they’re really artisans. They’re creating a beautiful floor that I can already tell I’m going to love.

How do I know they’re proud of their work?

  • They take the time to explain what they’re doing and why they do it that way. They’re proud of the techniques they use and why those techniques result in a superior outcome.
  • They take care of our house. Even though the house is torn up, it’s obvious that they know we still have to live here. They’re doing the work in a pattern that allows us to still function and get around the house.
  • They minimize the dust. When we began the restoration, many of my friends gleefully told me about the dustbowl my house was about to become, especially when the original floor was to be torn up. But when our guys showed up to tear up the floor, they told us how they would minimize the dust using a careful process. Yes there was dust, but not nearly the amount my friends were apparently hoping for.
  • They care about precision. Watching them plan, cut, and lay the travertine, I can see why the process is taking a bit longer than I originally thought it would. I’m okay with the time it’s taking because I can see that artisans are at work.

So what does this all have to do with business?

As customers, we can always tell when a person takes pride in his or her job. From their tone of voice to the look in their eyes, pride is evident. And a lack of pride in the job is just as clear, maybe even more so. I find that employees who are proud of what they do have some consistent traits:

  •  They’re happy to serve. They don’t see serving people as beneath them; they see it as a noble calling.
  • They don’t simply complete tasks; they create an experience. Getting the task done is important, of course. But proud employees take it a step further and ensure that customers have a good experience.
  • They take ownership of problems. Proud employees don’t blame other departments or other employees for problems; they take ownership of the issue and do whatever they can to resolve it. And in those times when no resolution can be reached, you can tell it truly pains them because they truly care.
  • They don’t cut corners. Because of the pride they take in their work, they make sure it’s done right. Even if a customer asks them to take a shortcut for the sake of time or for whatever reason, proud employees ensure the customer knows the ramifications of taking the shortcut.
  • They never, ever say, “That’s not my job.” Proud employees know that they represent the entire organization.
  • They have stories. I find that when I ask proud employees about their work, they’ll share stories about what they do and why they’re proud to do it. They don’t simply list their job duties; they bring the role to life with success stories.

I’m sure you can come up with other traits of proud employees (this wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list), but I think it’s a pretty good list.

Now think about employees you’ve experienced who demonstrated the opposite of what I’ve described. Those employees who simply process you through their system, blame other employees or departments for problems, or exhibit an “I just work here” attitude. You would never describe those employees as proud, would you? And how long would you continue doing business with an organization that is filled with employees who have no pride in their work. The only thing such companies can compete on is price – and that’s a pretty tough thing to compete on (and not very rewarding).

6 Actions leaders can take to build pride in the workplace

  1. Demonstrate your own pride. Through your words and behaviors, let employees know that you are proud of the organization and proud of the work you do.
  2. Recognize employees who demonstrate pride in their work. You know who your proud employees are – be sure they know how much you appreciate them.
  3. Don’t tolerate poor or mediocre performance. If you allow poor or mediocre performance to go unchallenged, you’re saying poor or mediocre performance is okay.
  4. Share stories. In team meetings, share stories and examples of excellence in action. Even better, get team members to share their own stories with the rest of the team.
  5. Create a shared history. Most organizations have a rich legacy that can easily be mined for stories that build pride. When employees carry a rich legacy on their shoulders, they understand that the legacy is on the line with every customer interaction.
  6. Involve employees in the improvement process. When employees know that their input is valued and that they play an instrumental role in improving the organization, the pride factor increases exponentially.

Again, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list. But imagine the outcome of implementing these six strategies. Imagine having an entire team of employees who take intense pride in their work. Imagine the trust that would be generated with customers who interact with an organization full of proud employees. I think that’s the key business outcome of all of this: customer trust. When customers deal with employees who are clearly proud of their roles and of their organization, they trust those employees to take good care of them. And a high level of trust equals a high level of loyalty. I totally trust the artisans installing the new floor in my house. My wife and I would happily use them in the future, and will confidently recommend them to others. We trust them because their pride shows through in their work.

Something to think about: What specific employee behaviors in your workplace demonstrate intense pride in the job? How often are you seeing those behaviors?

Creating Moments of Wow

Many companies I consult with are in search of that magical, all caps, bold WOW they can create for their customers that will result in insane customer loyalty. And I’m all for the big WOWs. I love to be on the receiving end of big WOWs. But there’s a problem – they’re hard to create. Big WOWs can be expensive and time consuming, and hard to deliver consistently.

The real magic lies in the “little moments of wow” that simply make customers feel good and feel valued. Most of these little wows
cost next to nothing (or nothing at all) and take little or no time to deliver. But the results can be amazing.

Galatoire's RestaurantA Moment of Wow - My good friend Jerry recently shared with me a story that perfectly illustrates the point. He and his significant other, Vicky, were vacationing in New Orleans. Over a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Galatoire’s, Jerry popped THE question. Fortunately for Jerry, Vicky said yes.Their server noticed what was happening and wanted to help memorialize this special moment. On one of the restaurant’s postcards, she wrote down everything they had to eat and drink that evening. She then invited them to return on their wedding anniversary so that she could help them relive their engagement dinner. Less than sixty seconds were probably invested in this server’s act of kindness, but for Jerry and Vicky it will be remembered forever. And therein lies the magic. It’s not about time and money, it’s about an act of genuine care.

Jerry and Vicky are celebrating their one-year anniversary in a few weeks. They’re going to New Orleans. Guess where they’re having their anniversary dinner?

Wow Opportunities Are Everywhere

Creating a moment of wow simply requires being present and aware of the opportunities all around us. Just recently as I handed a hotel valet parker my keys, he said, “This is a beautiful car. We’ll take good care of it.” Pretty small stuff, but it made me feel valued, if only for a moment. If a hotel can deliver a series of little wows like that over the course a guest’s stay, the overall impression is that magical, all caps, bold WOW.

Examples of little wows:
• The repairperson who puts on surgical booties before entering your home so dirt isn’t tracked in.
• The doctor who sits down while talking with you rather than standing with his or her hand on the exam room’s doorknob.
• The auto mechanic who notes your radio settings before disconnecting the car battery so he can reset your favorite stations.
• The computer helpline rep who shares a tip about something you didn’t even know your computer could do.
• The coffee shop employee who remembers your favorite drink.

These examples are low or no cost, and low or no investment of time. But they result in good feelings and, if done consistently, result in loyal customers. And how great is that?

Something to think about: What simple act of kindness can you do today to wow a customer?

 Something else to think about: How can you build simple acts of kindness into your organization’s culture?