Susan's Anger: Are You Causing Your Staff's Poor Performance?

Susan was furious as she hung up the phone. It was 3 O'Clock on Tuesday morning. Susan was told by her distributor that another shipment would be delayed.

This late shipment meant Susan would, once again, have to pay penalties to retailers who would get their candle shipments late. She told her staff they needed to start meeting deadlines, or they would be fired. She reminded them again in the past week that the shipment needed to leave their dock by 12 noon on Thursday, if they wanted to meet their Monday delivery deadline. It was as if she was invisible.

It was her company and no one was doing what they were supposed to do.

At 57-yrs old, Susan was tired of micro-managing a bunch of deadbeats that never did what she needed them to do.

Ten years ago, Susan made craft candles to be sold at craft fares. She upped her game when she sold over 1,000 candles on Pinterest. After five years of craft sales, Susan thought she hit the big time when she opened her candle factory and warehouse.

She was so proud when she got a contract to supply candles to all Hallmark stores in the U.S. She was a success story who was now tired of being a business owner. It seemed that 30% of her shipments were late; she couldn't sell candles on the internet because of agreements made with those same retailers. This late shipment was the last straw.

Susan decided she needed to sell her business and retire. The pride of creating a successful business was not worth the dreaded early morning failure phone calls.

She knew a local business coach who helped her friend sell her business; and thought he would be a great resource for her. Everyone called him “Coach Russ”. Instead of going to the office to deliver the “late delivery” bad news to her employees, she decided to give Coach Russ a call.

Russ started the conversation, "So, you want to sell your business. Can you tell me what has led to this decision?"

Susan replied with clarity, "I'm tired of managing a group of deadbeats that can't get anything right."

"Interesting. How much do you feel your business of deadbeats is worth to a buyer?"

Susan understood her sarcasm was not serving her well. If she wanted to get a buyer to pay her top dollar for her company, she'd have to be more positive.

Susan corrected herself, "Sorry. I have okay employees. I guess I'm tired of running this business, and I feel like a larger company can run it better than I can."

"I want you to be honest with me. If you were to take a 6-month vacation, how well would your candle company operate without you?"

Susan said, "Ok... We've missed three deadlines in the past month out of a total of 10 major retailer shipments. That poor performance included me hounding my employees to get these shipments out on time. I was notified early this morning, that another shipment would miss its deadline."

"I'm going to ask you again. If you were to take a 6-month vacation, how well would your candle company operate without you?"

Susan hung her head, "I don't think they would meet any of our deadlines, if I weren't on top of things."

Russ knew Susan would not like to hear what he would say next, "Susan, I can help you evaluate the value of your company; and find some interested buyers. But, unless you can figure out how to get your company to run well without you present, you'll have a difficult time getting the price you want."

Susan was clearly disappointed. She wanted out. She was convinced she didn’t have the energy to fix whatever was wrong with her employees. Even if she fired her staff and hired new employees, it would take months to train them. And she wasn't convinced that her new employees would be any better than her current employees.

With tears in her eyes, Susan asked, "What can I do, Russ? I want out."

"What if you could get better results from your employees? What if you could take a 6-month vacation and never have to worry about your company's operation?"

"I think that would be a miracle. I’ve threatened my employees with their jobs. Nothing seems to work."

"Maybe I can help. Do you mind if I attend your meeting with you, when you tell your employees about your most recent late shipment?"

"It couldn't hurt. Maybe you can identify some folks that are causing my problems."

It was now a full day after the late shipment news, on Wednesday morning.

The staff was aware of the missed Monday delivery deadline. They were ready to get chewed out by Susan once again. Susan promised that heads would roll this time; so everyone was on edge. Her employees were packed into the small company break room awaiting Susan's wrath.

As Susan and Russ walked into the room, there was instant silence.

Susan didn't waste any time, she got right to the point, "I have Coach Russ with me today for our meeting to observe. As all of you may know, we missed another shipment deadline this past Monday. That late delivery cost me a lot of money, and I'm tired of paying late fees for poor productivity on your part. I’ve worked too hard for the last ten years building this candle business, and I'll be damned if I let you ruin it. We have another delivery that will be due to another group of retailers this coming Monday. I'll be walking through the factory the rest of this week. If I see any of you slacking off, I'll fire you on the spot."

The silence remained in the room after Susan was finished. Susan and Russ left the room, and headed for Susan's office.

Susan sat in her office chair, as Russ entered the room and closed the door behind him. Russ sat in a comfortable chair in front of Susan's desk.

Susan started, "You see what I mean? They didn't say a word. No apology or anything. These folks don't give one damn, if this company crashes and burns."

Russ knew he had to be careful, "Susan, you have every right to be angry at the continued missed deliveries. Any business owner would be. What do you expect to happen with next week's shipment?"

"I don't know. My employees seem to improve the last time they got a good ass-chewing. Maybe they'll get with it and meet this next deadline."

"I was wondering if there could have been a different way to address your employees after yesterday's missed shipment?"

"I know what you mean. Could I have been nicer? I've tried nice, and it doesn't work. The only thing my people respond to is the threat of losing their job. Nothing else matters to them."

"I was not thinking of 'nicer'. Instead, I’m thinking of your goal of selling your company. What if you could get your employees to meet deadlines without these kinds of meetings?"

"Like I said, Russ. The only thing my people respond to is threats. I wish I didn't have to do speeches like the one you just witnessed."

"How did this speech you just gave make you feel?"

"I felt awful. I just don't know of any other way that works."

"How do you think your employees felt after the speech they just heard?"

Susan teared up, "I'm guessing they feel awful too. What am I supposed to do? If I'm nice, they just take advantage of me."

Russ offered, "Can you meet with me for an hour tomorrow in my office? I think I can show you a more effective way of motivating your folks that results in both sides feeling better; and performing at a higher level. What do you say?"

"Sure. What could it hurt?"

Russ and Susan met in Russ's office at 7:00 am on Thursday morning.

After some small talk, Russ started, "I want to introduce you to the concept of Energy in the workplace."

Susan looked confused, "Energy? I don't understand."

"When we lead other people, we create a type of Energy. You indicated that you felt bad after your meeting with your employees. And you said that you thought that your employees also felt bad. This bad feeling and environment is what I call Energy."

"Look, Russ. We had a bad experience as a company. I'm not sure such a bad feeling can be avoided."

"It can. I want to show you how. I’ll describe five levels of this Energy I'm talking about. Lower levels of energy are called Catabolic. Catabolic energy is used to motivate people with negative consequences. It will get results, but often leaves a bad feeling in the air; and requires you to constantly enforce rules, like you’re doing now."

Susan asked, "What’s the 'nice' energy called?"

Russ smiled, "It's not 'nice' energy. The opposite of Catabolic energy is Anabolic energy. Anabolic energy is a type of building and creative energy that’s desirable for long-term success. Let me explain with a visual representation of what I'm talking about."

Russ drew the numbers 1 through 5 on his office white board. He then penned the word VICTIM next to number 1.

Russ said, "The first level of energy is 100% Catabolic. It's called "Victim Energy". It's core thought is 'I lose'. When you commented yesterday that you had worked so hard and your employees were wrecking your company, that's an example of Victim energy."

Susan interrupted, "Now, look Russ. That's the truth. I have worked hard and built this company only to see a bunch of lazy workers destroy it."

"Your perspective may in fact be justified… However, I want to talk about how these energy levels work."

Russ penned the word "CONFLICT" next to the number 2 and said, "The second level of energy is still quite Catabolic. It's called "Conflict Energy". It’s associated with fighting and competition and has the core thought 'I win, You lose'. Business owners often use this language to threaten an employee's job."

"Now, wait a second. If my employees only care about their job, isn't it right to threaten something they care about in order to get them to meet a deadline that I care about?"

"Again, Susan, I'm not saying that any of these energy levels are right or wrong. I just want to be clear on how they work."

Russ penned the word "ACCEPTANCE" next to the number 3, and said, "The third level of energy is the start of the Anabolic range of energy. It's called "Acceptance Energy". I’ve also called this level Responsibility or Coping. The core thought of Acceptance energy is 'I win.' At this level, you’ll be fine as long as your candle factory works well. There may be room for improvement, but as long as deliveries are made on time, and quality is okay, you’ll tend to accept you current state of operations."

Susan nodded her head in agreement.

Russ wrote the word "COMPASSION" next to the number 4 and said, "The fourth level of energy is much more anabolic and is called Compassion. The core thought of compassion energy is 'You win'. In the case of your employees, the You is your employees."

Susan smiled, "My employees must be feeling compassion, because they are winning at the expense of me paying late delivery penalties."

Russ responded, "Actually, this energy is felt by you, not your employees. Compassion on your end would be a feeling of concern for the well-being of your employees. If you feel like your employees are winning by under-performing, that’s conflict energy because there is a winner and a loser."

Russ continued to write the word "OPPORTUNITY" by the number 5, "The highest level of energy that I want to talk about today is quite anabolic and is called Opportunity. The core thought of Opportunity Energy is, Win/Win. This means that you find ideas where you and your employees win together."

"You mean, like, they keep their job, and we meet our delivery deadlines?"