Aaron Crowley

Recently, a customer we’ve worked for in the past approached me about bartering granite counters for his vacation home, in exchange for some time at his vacation home.  I, of course, agreed and promptly took my kids over for a bit of fishing, swimming, and bike riding.  

With miles and miles of bike trails crisscrossing the maze of roads, my little pack of cyclists must have careened into potential danger about a hundred times or so. I found myself telling them, “OK kids, slow down, look left then right… OK now, let’s hurry before a car comes!” over and over again, as we approached the innumerable trail/street intersections. 

Thankfully being the week after Labor Day, the resort was a ghost town. We encountered few cars and no close calls, but I was exasperated to be still repeating that warning on our last day of bike riding.   

As I pedaled along, perplexed by the fact that my commands hadn’t yet translated to competency, it began to dawn on me that simply telling my kids a time or two or even quite a few was not sufficient training.  

This got me to thinking about the awkward and frustrating situation owners and managers face when a good employee fails to perform a task correctly, even after being “told” repeatedly.  With today’s shortage of dependable, sober, and skilled labor, simply replacing an employee isn’t really possible, much less practical, so what are we to do?  

How do we achieve improved performance for that employee and sanity for ourselves at the same time?

First, we must be PATIENT.  Out of the gate, we must be prepared to adjust our expectations (and the fact that they are more than likely unrealistic). … It’s really important to remember that people learn at different speeds, absorb information in different ways, and most importantly genuinely seek to perform to their superior’s expectations.  

We must be patient enough to let them get there!

Second, we must teach with PERSISTENT REPETITION.  President Ronald Reagan was a master communicator, and he understood the necessity of repeating a message over and over and over again.  His aides would groan at the prospect of hearing the “same speech” yet again and begged him to freshen it up, or better yet, change it! He refused to alter his message and he convinced a country and its Congress to accept his agenda.  

We must be equally persistent in repeating our instructions.  We must be willing yet again to repeat, reinforce, and remind our staff of what, how, and when the work must be done!

Third, we must measure performance with the PROPER PERSPECTIVE. Flawless execution can’t be the standard by which we measure performance because we will be perpetually disappointed and the employee is set up for permanent discouragement.  Yet we must find a way to determine how our persistence is paying off.  Instead of perfection, we need to measure improvement, as in “fewer” mistakes, “more” output, “higher” close ration, or “better” quality.

Repeatedly repeating yourself in the interest of turning your instructions into improved production can at times feel like a six hour spinning class on a stationary bike…utter exhaustion without the satisfaction of going anywhere.

But do not give up. If you are repeating yourself, even repeatedly, you are ripping up the trail and teaching your staff. You are farther ahead than you realize, so don’t stop pedaling!

Aaron Crowley is a stone shop owner, innovator and inventor, author, speaker, and consultant to mid-size stone companies. Contact him at .