A “SMALL” PROBLEM THAT MUSHROOMED

Lynn, head of systems, had come up with the idea for a monthly department report that would be distributed to department heads and other senior managers in the company.

The report’s purpose was to ensure financial and management support by making these individuals familiar with past accomplishments and future opportunities through use of the new technology.

Copy was provided by systems engineers and users and given to Roxanne, Lynn’s assistant, who was responsible for producing the final pages using in-house desktop equipment. The report was printed off-site.

The latest issue came out, and as Lynn quickly looked through its pages, she noticed lots of typographical errors. Roxanne was responsible not only for keyboarding the content and logistics but also for editing and proofreading the report.
Lynn had seen a few errors in the past, but she hadn’t talked to Roxanne about them; she knew that Roxanne had been busy assisting in the development of some technological updates and follow-up training, and Lynn didn’t want to come down on her after such a hard week.

Besides, Lynn had to admit to herself, she had enough on her own plate; she didn’t have the time to deal with something like a few typos in the “constituency” report. But their number had continued to increase.

Lynn knew that she had to talk to Roxanne about the situation. Very likely she would have postponed her conversation once again if she hadn’t overheard a conversation between Roxanne and another assistant, Marilyn.

Marilyn had noticed the typos, too, and had asked Roxanne if she wanted another pair of eyes to help proofread the report. “No,” Roxanne replied. “It really doesn’t matter. Most readers won’t notice.”

As Lynn listened, she was appalled. “Of course, it matters,” Lynn thought to herself. “This report went to senior management, and its purpose was to send a message to top management about the department’s commitment to excellence –
In everything.” She called Roxanne into her office.

“Roxanne,” Lynn began, “I looked over the report. There are some really great items in this month’s issue, but I also noticed several typographical errors.

I like to issue this report because it reflects the very best work done by the team. These typos, small as they are, diminish that image.”

“Oh, come on,” Roxanne said. “They aren’t that noticeable. If they were, I would have stayed late to fix them before I sent the pages to the printer. But we’ve had errors before and no one has said a word.

Even you,” Roxanne finished.
“I noticed before,” Lynn admitted. “I should have spoken to you about them earlier,” she continued. “Would it help if we asked several of the other assistants in the department to read copy, too?” she asked, moving the conversation from a criticism of the work to development of an action plan to prevent the problem’s recurrence.

Was Lynn to blame for the few errors growing into many more? Yes. Like Sophie, who didn’t make clear to Irma the importance of having the graphics in time for a presentation she was making to senior management, Lynn had not made clear to Roxanne how important it was to produce a “perfect report” for distribution to senior management. By her failure to say anything, Lynn had given Roxanne the impression that she could get away with not always doing her very best. But it was the last time she let any member of her team think so.

Record the learning points………

Not recognizing improvement

Acknowledging good performance doesn’t have to mean big money.

Recognition for a positive change in behavior can come in the form of praise and other positive reinforcements. Unless you acknowledge performance improvements, no matter how small they may be, however, these small improvements aren’t likely to be permanent.

Failing to give direction

Too often, you know your department’s mission or goals, but you fail to share them with your staff. Or you might tell your learner/employees the department’s goals but then fail to keep them informed of progress toward those goals.

Being impatient

Finally, coaches can easily fall into the trap of losing their patience after having explained the same task for the tenth time, learning about a stupid mistake that will cause a project setback, or reading a simple memo that needs editing.

Coaches who fail to exhibit patience in such circumstances are sending a message to their learner/employees that they “can’t believe just how stupid they are.”

Patience sends a very different message; it tells learner/employees that the coach recognizes that they are human beings and, as such, they have human fallibility, yet that is no reason to quit.

Rather, as human beings with the capability of developing and improving their performance, learner/employees understand their boss’s patience as evidence that he or she believes that they can succeed in their work. So they should try again.