Ever have an employee who, no matter what you tried, just couldn’t get it right, and in effect was undermining your business and your profits?
Who’s to blame? And what should you do about it? A friend of mine, George, owns a piano tuning company and was having problems with one of his employees, Joe. No matter what George tried Joe was a thorn in his side.
You see, a while back, George needed help at his growing piano tuning company and he knew Joe was out of work and could use a job. So, George hired Joe. Initially Joe just helped with moving pianos, but when a slot opened up to tune pianos, Joe asked if he could have it.
The problem emerged within a few months when George noticed, while one out of ten pianos seemed to be getting tuned just fine, most weren’t.
George figured maybe it was an issue of motivation. He figured, Joe, just lacked incentive. So George, savvy business owner that he was, changed Joe’s compensation plan to pay him $100 more for each piano he tuned correctly.
Joe still seemed to be tuning one in ten ok, but most of the pianos Joe worked on remained out of tune and customers were continuously complaining.
George wondered what it could be, if not motivation. His only idea was that Joe just didn’t understand the tuning process, so if he gave Joe a simple step-by-step piano tuning system to follow, that would solve everything.
George spent a day or so putting together his foolproof piano tuning guide. When he was done, he gave it to Joe to use.
A week or so later, George checked in with Joe. Still no difference, most of the pianos Joe worked on were out of tune and most of the customers were unhappy.
So if it wasn’t a motivational problem, or a systems problem what was it?
George finally decided to listen in as Joe tuned a piano to see if he could figure it out. When he heard Joe go to work, step-by-step following the system he’d provided, it was clear he was trying, but in most cases Joe put the pianos even more out of tune, and George realized two things.
1. The reason Joe seemed to have a 10% success rate, to be able to tune 1 out of 10 pianos correctly, was that 1 out of 10 pianos Joe worked on were already in tune. Joe didn’t need to do anything to put these pianos into tune. They sounded perfect before he touched them.
2. The reason Joe was doing such a terrible job tuning pianos was… he was tone deaf. It wasn’t his fault, and it wasn’t something more money or better tuning systems were going to fix.
The crux of the problem wasn’t that Joe wasn’t trying his hardest. In fact, it wasn’t Joe’s fault in any way.
The problem was George, the owner, was asking Joe to do something he couldn’t do and was never going to excel at, ever!
Have an underperforming staff member? What’s the problem?
Or is it that…
3. They are simply the wrong person for the job.
If it’s number 3 – they are the wrong person for the job – the best thing you can do for your company and for the employee, is to fire them ASAP so you can hire someone with the skills you need and so people like Joe can find a job that is right for their skill set.
Firing people, especially loyal employees, is tough on the emotions, but profits are made based on logic.
Questions? Let me know.
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P.P.S. Yes, I made up the above story about George and his piano tuning business to make a point.