The Ceiling Fan Saga

The other day, my friend Vince told me a story that I like to call, “The Ceiling Fan Saga”.  To get you up to speed quickly, here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

Vince and his wife Brenda acquired a ceiling fan from a friend who was moving.  In the process of the taking the fan down, the glass around the lights broke.  After trips and calls and online ordering from Home Depot, Vince and Brenda still didn’t have the right piece of replacement glass for the fan.  Vince finally gets the name of someone who he thinks can help him.  He is told that “Anne” will call in a few days and all will be resolved.

A few days go by.  No call.  A few more, still no call.  Vince calls the person who told him that Anne would call (because they wouldn’t give him Anne’s number).  He said there had been no call from Anne, no messages, and not even a missed call recorded on the caller ID.

“Yeah”, Anne’s colleague said, “Anne doesn’t really like to leave messages.”

Seriously? Someone who has a job of communicating and helping people OVER THE PHONE won’t leave a message?  Interesting.

Unfortunately, this saga is still ongoing, so I don’t have a resolution for you, but I do have a question.

How many of your employees are good at most parts of their job, but not the entire job? And is their deficiency the most important part of their job?

I would say that Anne’s willingness to leave a message is a pretty critical part of her job.  It’s like when I hear leaders talking about their employees saying, “Well, they are a really good cashier, they balance and know the promotions, but they are not good at talking with the guests.”

Isn’t that as much a part of their job as everything else?  Maybe it is on paper, but that’s not what is being enforced.  We are allowing that employee to not be good (or even passable) at a critical part of the job because they are competent at one that is easier to measure.

How about this: an employee that is loyal, willing to work any time, will jump in to clean and do the dirty work, yet is borderline rude with the guests and says very inappropriate things that require immediate damage control (true story)?

Reading that, you would probably say “get rid of him”, yet those scenarios seem to happen all the time.  We stop short of expecting some of our employees to actually rise to ALL of the expectations we have.

So here is your challenge: The next time you start to utter the phrase, “They may not be good at X, but it’s okay because they are really good at Y”, think about the implications of that person not being good at X.  They could impacting customer service, employee morale and teamwork. Then identify what it would take to make them better at X, and help them get there.

You can also think about this way… if, as a leader, you are not helping your employees improve their skills, someone might say about you, “Well, they are really good with numbers but they can’t coach their employees.”

In that case you wouldn’t be doing all of your job, either.

Thanks for reading!


About the author:  Did you know that Matt is writing a book about employee burnout?  You can read more about it (including a sample chapter) by clicking here, or hear him talk about it on a recent appearance on Blog Talk Radio.