Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do

He's slow because he doesn't know why he's running!

It’s Fable Friday once again and today I’ll share a story from my days as a manufacturer of office supplies, shipping thousands of loose-leaf index dividers from our New York factory. One day the shipping department hired a new employee and the manager showed him how to pack the big corrugated boxes.  “You put the poly-wrapped dividers into this cardboard box, and before you seal it up, put a sheet of corrugated cardboard on top of the product.” 

The guy seemed to catch on and all was fine, until the day he ran out of cardboard sheets.  Not knowing what they were for in the first place, he shipped a jillion cases of dividers out without them.

Of course you can see what happened.  Customers opened the boxes with case cutters and damaged the product, so we had to replace it.  All would have gone well if the manager had just said, “And here’s why we put the piece of cardboard on top…”

Now this is a key element of human performance:  people are more likely to perform in the desired way if they know WHY they’re doing it.  As I often share with clients when I design their training, “You have to connect the dots for them.”

Here’s an example.  Let’s suppose your company has put extra emphasis on prospecting this year. Everyone is supposed to go out and make more and better calls. If you want to get a deeper commitment to this effort, tie the demand for enhanced prospecting back to the strategic business reasons for it. It may be that the recent economic downturn is causing more businesses to look for value providers, thus increasing switching propensity.  If this is the reason, then explain it to your people, share the research, the probable dollar value and let them see the big opportunity.

Many years ago I met a consultant from Red Bank, NJ named Ferdinand Fournies.  Ferd made a study of hundreds of companies, trying to figure out why employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do.  He eventually wrote a book on his findings, and not surprisingly, he entitled it “Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do.”  The book is now out of print but I treasure my copy, because each chapter deals with one of those reasons, including the one above:  “They don’t know why they are supposed to do it.” 

I have advised many managers and coaches to find a copy of this book and read it twice, and I am advising you to do the same. Amazon will likely have some available.  If you can figure out why your employees aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you have a better chance of dealing with the obstacle.  Each chapter gives you examples and suggested approaches.  It’s well worth buying, and it’s a quick read.

Remember that your employee should be treated just like a customer and it’s important to

Think Like Your Customer!

Reminder:  I send a FREE e-newsletter first week of every month.  My June issue deals with one of the practices of effective coaches, how to deal effectively with excuses.  If you’re not signed up, just go to my website using the link to the right, click on the fancy “N”(for newsletter) in the top right and enter your name and email address.  You’ll just make the June issue.  Thank you.  Gregory

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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