The Guillotine Or the Rack?

By: Joe Crisara

The Guillotine Or the Rack?

Each week I get several calls from contracting business owners asking for some advice on how to handle a “tough situations” with the employees or customers in their business. Each time I hear about one of these supposedly insurmountable scenarios, I am immediately reminded about a chapter I read awhile ago in a book by author Seth Godin titled, “Small Is the New Big.” In this chapter he simply asks, “Do you want to face the guillotine? Or do you want to be tortured on the rack?”

I think what he means is pretty clear. Do you want to encourage bad behavior by your team by tolerating or even rewarding it? Or do you want to end the torture by solving these problems permanently? For example, how many companies do you know that have a de facto sales manager who instead of being fired for poor performance as a sales person was “kicked up” to management because they simply couldn’t sell?” I know, wipe the AFLAC Duck look off your face and think about the madness that business owners sustain because they lack the courage to act on dysfunction.

Whenever you find yourself solving the same problems over and over, being tortured by having to make “King Solomon” type decisions, you have chosen the rack over the guillotine. Stop the self-flagellation and put an end to the madness. You dishonor yourself, your family and your company if you allow the SQ (Stupidity Quotient) to peg out at the max.

Here are some examples of what I mean…

SCENARIO #1 – Annoying Sales Guy Is a Paid Audience

This is quite a common scene as it involves a sales person who “hangs out” when it’s slow complaining that there are no calls. Sitting around doing nothing or going from desk to desk annoying co-workers with his complaining and general sloth.

GUILLOTINE – Confront the salesperson and ask them what they have done to prospect this week. That’s right; a salesperson should be required to provide at least 30% of their own leads through referral follow up or prospecting. In fact, if I was the owner I would require such a person to fill out a log to detail their activities in this area until they started to participate. If they did not fill out the log each week, they would not get any calls until it was filled out.

THE RACK – Commiserate with the salesperson and agree with him that people never buy things around the holidays. (Which by the way there is one every month) This then results in paying the salesperson some sort of salary or loan for way too long. You do this until it drags on long enough and just before busy season, he quits. When it hurts the most. Your people are the solution to you getting more work. Not the problem. Don’t suffer this torture on the “rack.”

SCENARIO #2 – The Under-performing Service Tech

In this scene we have a new or old tech of your who has demanded and received a pay raise and then starts to under perform because complacency has set in.

GUILLOTINE – You put him on “intensive care” for two weeks. You let him know what the minimum that you expect from him on each call. In fact, you tell him that he is to call you BEFORE he leaves each call for the next two weeks to see if you can help him get back to minimum performance standards.

At the end of the two weeks, you two will meet again to check the progress. You ask him, “What should we do if you show no improvement in two weeks?” Let him name his punishment. (It will probably be worse than what you would do) Let him know that you CANNOT go forward without a certain minimum revenue for the truck to roll.

THE RACK – You look at the revenue numbers versus the company field payroll and you just about do a Danny Thomas “spit-take.” (Spray your first sip of your morning coffee out on the desk) You go around asking all the internal people for the tickets from the worst performing tech and you simply cannot believe it. You rant around the office for a couple of hours longer and then take an early lunch.

You feel that “now is not a good time” to confront this tech because it is starting to get very busy. Next week after a record cold wave hits the area you look at the revenue numbers for the tech in question and you just about faint as they are now even lower. Meanwhile, 3 weeks have gone on since you noticed this trend. You finally confront the tech and he is shocked that you haven’t told him sooner. He agrees to improve but doesn’t tell you how. Next week at the middle of a sub-zero cold snap when he is on-call, he of course quits. Oh the torture!

Choose the Guillotine

Given the choice, I would always face the guillotine in making tough decisions. Think about how hard it is to watch your favorite team when the coach is indecisive. Challenge your people to be successful and they will. Letting things go will only make it harder to face the inevitable.

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