Answering the questions of a concerned business owner:
Today’s post is in response to an emailed question from a fan of our content. He is a concerned business owner, and the essence of his question is, “Can unproductive behaviors be trained out of a team member?” This is a great question.
This topic crosses the intersection of:
- What’s the moral responsibility of a company for training?
- What’s the difference between Behavior and Training?
- How to hire slow and fire fast.
This type of question doesn’t have a short and sweet answer. Well, it might. But the short answer needs some unpacking for clarity. And, I don’t have the time to unpack these types of long questions on an individual basis. Therefore, I’m going to get some miles out of this question and answer it for all of you fine readers.
Also, this is a long email. It has several parts that need different answers. To make it easier to digest, I’m going to address it in what I see as sections.
[To protect the reader and his people, I have changed or removed some specific details of the question. I’m going to call the owner “Bob.”]
“Bob” Needs Help. A concerned owners’ email:
Good morning Todd,
I have three technicians that I am having challenges with.
Bob’s question: “Is he smart enough?”
I have a tech that seems motivated to inform our clients (which leads to sales). But, he has difficulty explaining things congruently. So, he tends to confuse clients. This seems to be a cognitive issue for the tech. Is this sort of thing trained away in a cost-effective way, or is his replacement more cost-effective?
Todd’s response: “A tech is pretty smart.”
Bob, thank you for your question. I’m going to do my best to answer this from experience. Before I start, let me say publicly that I think I understand the nature and direction of your question. I do not think that you are being mean-spirited or cold. I think you are seriously concerned and don’t know what to do. There! Now, that we understand each other; let me address your question.
It’s great that this tech is motivated to inform his clients. That’s a win! Hang on to that motivation. It can be used for great things.
Secondly, there is a question of, “How smart is he?” I don’t know the answer to that question. There are tests that can tell you, but I don’t think that is necessary. I think you can tell if he is “smart enough” by a simple question: “Can he do the technical parts of service well?”
If he can, then he is plenty smart enough to be a good communicator. So, the real question is:
“Is he capable of assembling his thoughts in a step-by-step manner?”
Maybe. I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I would construct a few exercises to find out if he can.
Here’s a great exercise to discover if he is capable of organizing his thoughts in a manner that flows step-by-step.
- Ask him to write out the steps in changing a part.
- Tell him you want to see the steps from beginning to end, put in order.
- Let him know that you want to see at least 6 steps or more.
- Then, have him verbally communicate those steps back to you.
This will give you a strong indication of his ability to communicate, and his cognitive capability.
For your last question:
“Should I train him, or replace him?”
I say “yes.” If you hire someone, you absolutely have a responsibility to train them. End of statement. Hard stop.
If that person doesn’t respond to training, you absolutely must replace him. End of story. Hard stop.
It’s up to you how long the period of training to productivity is. Here at Service Excellence Training, LLC, I define that period in writing before hiring a team member.
We refer to that document as our KRA standards. If you would like a copy, you can get it here: FREE KRA Download
Bob’s question: “Will he ever be able to close?”
The other two technicians are hard-wired to be people pleasers. They know all of our systems, scripting, and they have all the answers. But, they seem to be afraid of customers’ reactions. (Once a year they may get “barked” at by a client that thinks they were trying to sell them something.)
These two technicians will gently, without certainty or persuasion, mention our comfort club or the usefulness of IAQ. This is wired into their personality.
Should I try to train this out of them or replace them?
Todd’s response: “Closing skills can be taught.”
Bob. This is a topic that is super close to my heart. Why? I intensely understand the nature of your question.
The nature of your question is based on the technician’s personality. From your short description, I can tell you that these two techs are going to rank very high in the Stable (also known as the Steady) personality type. I can also tell you that they will be very low ranking in the Driver and Influencer type.
The Stable personality type is one that values:
- Pleasing people.
- Maintaining low conflict relationships.
The Driver and Influencer personality types value:
- Speed to results.
- Maintaining personal accomplishment and recognition over low conflict.
Can you change someone’s personality?
Let me say, “it’s very difficult.” It can be done, but it is super hard to change what nature and mother put into each of us. You will find yourself frustrated if you try to fundamentally change the person in front of you. It’s like a bad relationship. If you’re not happy with the person you are with, trying to change them into someone new is destructive (in most cases).
Now, if you don’t know your people’s personality types, then test them TODAY! We can supply you with the Profile Tests and a Job Match for Sales. >>
Does that mean they will never be able to close?
Closing is a skill. Skills can be learned. Anyone can learn to close. That’s a fact.
Now, closing is a skill that is enhanced by art and temperament. Which is to say, it will be much easier for those naturally gifted in sales.
“Should I train him, or replace him?”
Yes. See the first response if you need a reminder.
Let me also address one more MAJOR point of consideration. Most techs are actually going to be like the last two techs you described. That’s normal and natural. That means that you have to figure out a system that works for them.
PRESS PLAY is a System for Techs
Bob, I told you this is near and dear to my heart. That’s why I created the PRESS PLAY for Techs, Sales, and CSRs Systems.
Our programs tackle these issues you described in your email. They are built for the vast majority of techs. For techs that struggle with the issues you described, our programs are a big step in helping them reach success.
May I strongly suggest that you enroll your people into the next program? Let us help you. Here are the details CLASS PAGE
Bob’s question: “Can I use their personality as leverage?”
Here’s one idea I have:
Every time a client doesn’t sign up for the comfort club, I would call the client and get the client happily involved in one over the phone. Then, I would mention to the people-pleasing technician that the client was disappointed that the technician didn’t mention the benefits in a clear, persuasive way. Because, if the technician would have at the time of service, then the client would have received all of the benefits. This may be a way to leverage the technician’s people pleasing personality..?
Do you have any advice for me?
Concerned Business Owner
Todd’s answer: “You’re very close.”
Bob, you understand the nature of your techs. You get that those high S personalities don’t want to disappoint a client. Well done in recognizing that!
Your approach would have some effectiveness. That’s very true.
Now, before you go there, let me suggest another approach.
Demonstrate how to close the call with your tech. If you don’t have the time to do this on the job, then use technology.
The next time you make one of those calls, conference in the tech. Let him listen to you make the call. He will learn on the spot, in real time, and be grateful for the coaching.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that this will be much better received. It’s a subtle change but makes all the difference in the world.
Todd’s Closing Commentary
Bob, thank you for your questions. They were well thought out. I can tell that you have been putting serious consideration into your people. That’s good. That’s what you should do.
People are important. They are the engines that make life go. They deserve deep consideration, and they deserve taking risks over.
Sometimes our risks pay off, and sometimes they fail. But as leaders, taking the risk is always worth it when we are considering the overall good of people.
One final way to answer the question is to ask yourself, is this employee coachable? If the technician is willing to learn and open to feedback, then they are worth investing in. They also need to have a positive attitude. The positive attitude will help them overcome the insecurities of learning a new skillset.
Good on you Bob. Good job seeking help. I hope this helped. I hope it gives you a little more peace than you had. And, I hope you turn learning into earning.