Why Employees Make Stupid Mistakes
How many times have you asked yourself why no one else in your company has common sense? Dumb decisions, lack of interest, and no sign of self-motivation--these are criticisms I often hear about employees. Along with the common complaint: no one can do the job as well I do.
A few months ago I had a coaching session with a distraught business owner. One of his account managers neglected to communicate with a client whose account was performing poorly, resulting in the loss of their business. To make matters worse, he never even informed his boss about the problem. The account manager felt confident that he could fix the problem and deliver better results, so in his mind no communication was necessary. And this was not the first costly incident involving a lack of communication on this employee's part, yet he had outstanding technical and problem-solving skills.
In another instance I coached a woman whose customer service representative made frequent order entry errors. Again, this created a loss of revenue and poor client satisfaction results. It was difficult for this business owner to understand how such a simple, repetitive task could be so difficult for an otherwise intelligent person. This employee enjoyed speaking with customers and formed great relationships with them. She always went the extra mile to make sure the customer was happy and was great at producing add-on sales and at upselling.
So what would you do? Would you fire these employees? Probably not. The time and cost of finding, vetting, and training new employees is daunting for any small business owner. What they tend to do instead is either ignore the problem and stew in anger and frustration, or try to fix the employee's shortcomings. And that's the problem. We spend more time trying to fix weaknesses than we do in developing strengths.
What to Do
You're much better off assessing employees' strengths, natural talents, and interests. It's not unusual for an employee to excel in one area while consistently underperforming in others. When someone is placed in a job that doesn't play to their strengths they will disengage and underperform. As an entrepreneur it's difficult to understand this because you will wear whichever hat is necessary to make your company succeed. But no employee can maintain that level of commitment, especially if they feel incapable of doing their job because it isn't suited to them.
To get the maximum commitment and performance from your employees, you must put each of them on the right seat on the right bus or the bus will go nowhere but downhill. If your employees come to work each day to do what they do best rather than perform a role that doesn't fit them, they will have a positive impact on the future of your business.
Whether you are faced with an unhappy, poor performer or a new employee, the key is in how you design the job. That's what we did in each of the above scenarios, and it worked beautifully.
Start With the Job Description
Go back to the drawing board and avoid combining skills and qualities in your job descriptions that are not likely to be found in one core personality type. For instance, if you need a graphic designer don't include things like project management tasks in the job description. A creative is unlikely to excel in managing deadlines for others, following up on tedious details, and changing gears at the drop of a hat. Hire a graphic designer to design and you'll get great results. The project manager is a different personality type altogether.
It's also important to ask the right questions in an interview and to implement a process for testing qualities and skills. If you are hiring someone to manage accounts have them work through challenging scenarios with you. Role play, and ask them to offer solutions to an existing problem. Since you'll also want someone who communicates well in this role, test their abilities by introducing them to your team to see how they manage the conversations.
But most importantly use the tools that are available to you: aptitude and personality tests. This will help you to assign responsibilities that suit each person's skills, personal qualities, and talents. Some of these tools are complicated, others are quick and easy. You'll find free tests online that you can test drive to see how they work for you. I like Strengthsfinder 2.0. by Tom Rath. When you purchase the book, a code for a free strengths test is enclosed.
At some point you may want to consider a more in-depth analysis like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Strong Interest Inventory, or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. These involve a fee but in the long run it will save you time and money.
By doing your homework and putting more time into your search upfront you'll benefit for years to come. You'll have happy, productive employees who love to come to work each day. Now ask yourself, what's better than that?
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.