Greg owns an auto body repair shop that generally specializes in fixing vehicles that have been in accidents. Recently though, they’d been doing work for a client who had asked them to do some restorations on a few of his prize vehicles, one of which being an early Hummer. The project, now complete, was a long and arduous one. Nearing the end of the project, one of the employees decided that he would help build up some “hype” of the completion by taking a picture of the vehicle and posting it to social media. This is where the grievance began.
Having no prior knowledge of the event, my friend was at another business in town when someone stopped him and asked what the deal was with the post. To which my friend replied “What are you talking about?” After the reveal, and some back and forth conversation, it was made clear what had happened and that the customer was not happy about the post. Greg was irate. He quickly returned to the shop and began letting his employee know that this was not acceptable and that his actions had serious repercussions, one of which was potentially losing the customer. The employee’s reply was obviously one of regret and apology, to which Greg stated “Sorry doesn’t cut it.”
Once he finished recapping his story to me, I’d imagine he was expecting me to reply with condolences on the situation. I didn’t, however.
My response was “Hmm. So what are you going to do to make sure that this doesn’t happen again?”
He expectedly replied “Oh he knows never to do this again.”
My follow up “Good. How about everyone else?”
Now we arrive at the heart of the issue. Getting upset when someone does something you don’t like, or is potentially harmful, is understandable but leaders need to understand that the first person slated to take blame is themselves. If your team members don’t know what is acceptable behavior and/or best practice, how do you expect them to act accordingly? Furthermore relaying the message to one person in no way ensures that anyone else will know any better either. As an old coach used to say:
“Assumptions are the mother of all f–k ups”
So where did Greg go wrong?
He didn’t have a clear set rule for what was acceptable/unacceptable
Though Greg may very well have had a rule prohibiting this kind of action in his mind prior to this incident, his team (or at least one of them) didn’t. If he wanted his team to act a certain way, he needed to relay that to them. At the very least, verbalize it so that they had an idea.
Even if he did have a set rule, he didn’t make it easy to find
While I can confirm that there was no set rule, let’s just say there was. Verbalizing that rule is important but let’s be honest, we’re privy to a vast array of information on any given day. Most of us have packed schedules that fill our day, both from a business and personal standpoint. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all and mistakes are bound to happen.
For Greg to have the best chances of avoiding this issue in the future he needs to make this rule, and others, as accessible as possible to everyone on his team. As a good rule of thumb:
- Verbal queues are ok
- Traditional training and reference manuals are better
- Digital platforms are best
He made an assumption
Arguably his first mistake, Greg assumed that the team simply knew that this wasn’t okay. It’s not uncommon, in fact, almost all of us make assumptions based on our respective level of expertise.
Assumptions kill communication. Check out our previous post to see how you can use assumptions to make instructions less useful.
So why does all of this matter?
Because Greg’s story is all too familiar. Leaders, be it from rank or through status, too often run into scenarios like this where an unfavorable outcome leads to them being upset with a team member. It’s important however to take a step back and understand that without the proper guidance from influencers, people are going to use their best judgement, which may not match up with your desired outcome.
When this happens, you’re to blame. Not them.