When I was managing international sales forces for a consulting firm, I had a sign in my office: “No whining.” Too often, I’d just point to the sign when one of my visitors demanded bonus pay for breathing regularly or wanted someone else’s office which was two square feet larger. Yet they wouldn’t listen to what they had to do to actually earn and merit improvement in their lot.
Yesterday, I hopped in a cab (a hop I seldom, ever make) outside the Four Seasons in Chicago to make a five-minute trip to meet a friend at a cigar bar in the the Loop. The doorman gave the driver the address, but the driver, talking to someone on a phone under a hoodie, had to interrupt his conversation to check with me twice. Ten minutes later he was stopped outside of 1900 instead of 19, and yelling at me for giving him the wrong address!
I told him to shut the meter off and stop yelling and to get off the phone. He blinked, and drove me to the right place, arguing his case all the time, and then, contritely, tried to refuse my money. He was genuinely embarrassed and uncomfortable. I told him that mistakes happen, but he shouldn’t be on the phone when he’s driving and ought to pay more attention. I insisted he take my $10 for what would have been a $5 ride, my normal tip for a short ride to be fair to the driver.
There was a huge sign in the back of the cab (underneath “Vomit clean-up fee: $200″) with complaint lines and the number of the cab. I wasn’t moved to complain. The guy is his own worst enemy, and I suspect he wasn’t just having a bad day.
We see this in business all the time. There are people who don’t perform well because they don’t have the right habits and behaviors (they do have the skills) and they don’t get (or accept) the feedback from customers or superiors that would help them to improve. In organizations, they are eventually fired or marginalized (and in poor ones, promoted). Outside of organizations, as individuals, they suffer financially from lower levels of business, poor tips, no referrals, and so forth.
Some of you may feel that my tip (or lack of complaint) was enabling poor behavior, and you may be right. But I thought he did regret his easily avoided error and felt guilty taking any money. I wanted to show him that people feel he has a right to earn a living, but he’s better off if he listens and behaves differently. I thought maybe I’d have an impact.
We all need to help our clients to identify, improve, or remove those whose behaviors result in underperformance. This is rarely a training issue, but usually a coaching issue. And for all of you, have you selected reliable, trusted feedback sources so that you can evaluate when your own behaviors are undermining your efforts, unbeknownst to you? (Get the stupid blinking metal thing out of your ear.)
© Alan Weiss 2013