If we pay attention to our employees, we will learn the truth.

Let’s continue the process from the last two months — from getting on with it to creating hotbeds of enthusiasm. We’ve talked about the grumbles and gripes process of listing down anything that stood in the way of our employees doing a better job as well as that we need to pay attention because they know what needs to be done.

I want to extend that approach and get more detailed this month. I would like you to get each and every employee in your aftermarket group to take some time and make three lists. The first one is those things that will improve the operation, the second is those things that are a real pain, and the third is those things that make the job better.

A short word of caution here, don’t go down this path unless you are prepared to act on the lists of five things your employees think would help them do their job better that we talked about last month.

The First List

Improving operations is a constant and continuing process, it’s not a destination. We truly have a good group of hard-working, caring employees touching our customers and they know what would help make the operation better. I repeat this and have since the beginning of time — they are our heroes.

If we can channel everyone’s thinking into the idea that improving processes and operations is a customer satisfaction issue, we will all win.

The more open the environment and the more trusting and caring the culture, the more productive the processes and procedures — and yes, the people — will be. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Remember that the employees will work much harder to satisfy the customer than they will to satisfy the boss. If we can channel everyone’s thinking into the idea that improving processes and operations is a customer satisfaction issue, we will all win, won’t we? The customers, the employees, and yes, the company certainly will. This is about the culture of a company.

The Second List

We are not conditioned typically to be aware of tasks or job processes that are a real pain to perform. We all know there are many jobs that are not easy or effective. We even go so far as to have a television show called “Dirty Jobs.” This is also at the core of our immigration discussions. “They do jobs that Americans wouldn’t do.”

But this is all noise when we ask the employees which of “their” tasks and job functions are a real pain and how could we make them better. It is almost as if we have become desensitized to them.

We need to change this thinking; in fact, we must change this thinking. I like to talk with employees in this particular area, on this list, in depth. I suggest to each person that I will take away those things that they neither like nor are any good at in their jobs. But this is a trap, isn’t it? If I take away everything that you neither like nor are proficient at and leave you with only those things you like to do and are good at doing, then there are no excuses for substandard performance anymore. Right? This is about the humanity of the leaders.

The Third List

Imagine having the opportunity to take everything in your job and make it better. Wouldn’t that be nice?We need to look at the workplace, the work station, the lighting and other environmental issues, the wages and benefits, the tools and training, the organization, and the culture. I believe that you can tell walking into a business how the employees feel about their company and their jobs. There is an “air” and “aura.” Isn’t that strange? But I know you know what I’m talking about. Those are the businesses that we enjoy doing business with and go to over and over again.

Recently I read an article on customer service. It was about a customer who had been using a particular company regularly over the years. The business over time had experienced changes, the furniture was getting shabby, the people were more distant, but there was loyalty — so the relationship continued. One day in a time-sensitive situation, the customer had to use an alternate supplier. The facility was bright and cheerful, the customer was greeted and directed to where he needed to be, the people who were going to do the work talked with the customer to ensure they knew what was required, a cup of coffee was delivered, and the work was done on time.

The old supplier was replaced. Probably not surprised, right? This is about customer service and satisfaction.

Everything about these lists is about employee satisfaction, and that leads to and delivers customer satisfaction. That should be what we are all about.

In these uncertain and difficult times we can still focus on positive things. We can still create an environment that is a safe haven that I’ve been talking about for some time now — a place where our employees enjoy going to work.

This is leadership. That is what each and every one of us has to be regarding our jobs and lives — a leader. Never forget this old truth: You manage process, you don’t manage people. You lead people. Success becomes much more compelling when each employee is given the opportunity to lead themselves, to know what to do, and how to do it.

by Ron Slee
March, 2010
Water Well Journal

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The Water Well Journal is the leading resource for those working in the groundwater industry. The flagship publication of the National Ground Water Association is delivered to more than 24,000 people every month and covers technical issues related to drilling and pump installation, rig maintenance, business management, well rehabilitation, water treatment, and more.

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