Businesses Don’t Die from a Single Shot to the Head

By Donald Cooper

Businesses don’t die from a single shot to the head. They die, slowly but surely, from a thousand uncompleted tasks. One of my new business coaching clients has several key staff who don’t do what they’re asked to do. They don’t even do what they say they’ll do. And, if the odd time they do ‘get it done’, it’s never on time.

Simply put, they’re not doing their job. It’s hurting the business badly and driving the business owner (my client) nuts. He has no time to do his job because he’s spending his time trying to get them to do theirs. Together, he and I will fix this and it won’t be all that difficult. We’ll create a culture of clarity, commitment, urgency, efficiency and accountability.

Some of these non-performing team members are rescuable – and some are not. Some are good people in the wrong job. Some have been promoted when they should not have been. Some haven’t been given effective training and coaching and, therefore, were set up to fail. Some should never have been hired at all.

My newly updated Biz Tool #B-21 – titled 14 Reasons for Staff Non-Performance – will help determine the causes of this non-performance and how to correct it. Click here if you would like to use this insightful tool for your business.

How will we get started in creating this culture of clarity, commitment, urgency, efficiency and accountability? We’ll start by explaining to the team that gone are the days of talking about ‘goals, targets, aims and objectives’ – these terms leave way too much wiggle room to not perform. There’s a huge difference between a target and a commitment. A target is something we hit sometimes and miss other times and it’s okay; it’s just a target.

So, we’ll replace all of those weak and wishy-washy words with one powerful word – commitments. Commitments to our customers, to our team, to safety and efficiency, to our bottom line, to our community and the planet. We need to stop aiming and start committing. When we change our language, we change our culture.

Then, every time we assign a task or project, we’ll ask the ten-word question that changes everything, “By when can we agree that this will be completed?” If it’s a longer-term project, a second question to ask will be, “And when can we agree that you will check in with me for an update on the progress you’re making?” Negotiate an acceptable commitment, document that commitment and diligently follow up. The world is run by those who follow up.

If a team member misses a commitment, sit down with them and nicely ask:

  • Did you understand your commitment regarding this?
  • What happened that has led to it not being completed on time?
  • When did you know that you were running behind on your commitment? Should you have come to me at that time so we could have taken corrective action and advised those who will be affected by our failure to deliver on this commitment, on time?
  • What must you or we do better next time, so that this doesn’t happen again?

When team members miss their commitments a few times, it’s time to chat with them about other career possibilities for them, including the possibility of their seeking employment with some other company that has lower performance expectations.

Are some of the folks on your team under-performing? Is there a lack of commitment because there’s a lack of clarity or accountability?  This can be fixed and I’ve just shown you how. If you’d like help, I’m easy to find at

Here’s something else to think about:

Quote of the week: Choosing the comfort, simplicity and adrenaline rush of working ‘IN’ the business, rather than embracing the challenge and complexity of working ‘ON’ the business, is one of the most common and costly mistakes an owner or manager can make.

Make life easier for your team: H-E-B Supermarkets in Texas publishes work schedules for their 100,000 front-line employees two weeks ahead, so their team members can plan their lives and personal commitments. What can you do to make life easier for your team members? If you can’t think of anything – ask them. They probably have a list.

How’s your customer retention rate? Costco’s annual customer retention rate is an extraordinary 91.6%. Considering how many people go into retirement homes or die each year, that’s an incredible number.

So, what’s your customer retention rate? Do you even know what it is? And how can you improve it by improving your customer value and customer experience?

That’s it for this week. Stay safe! Live brilliantly!

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