E4: The Art of Disciplinary Action
In Episode 3, Proactive Pete helped Last to Know Joe create meaningful meetings. Joe had all but given up on having meetings because he never really accomplished anything in them anyway… Turns out, the solution to better meetings came down to three simple words…
“Pete,” Joe sounded distressed. “I’m going to explode. You try to help somebody out, and it ends up biting you in the ass! That’s what I get for being the good guy!”
“What’s going on, Joe?” Pete had concern in his voice.
“Well, Trainer Tyler has a client who lives in his neighborhood, and he showed Quiet Cathy how to ‘burn a session’ so he could train that client at home one day. That’s time theft! I paid him to work at my gym for that hour! And what was he doing? Wasting time! That’s what!”
“Slow down a bit, Joe. Can you explain to me what ‘burning a session’ is?”
Joe explained that when a trainer books a session, it goes onto the Joe’s Gym calendar. He explained that when a trainer burns a session, they’re indicating that the client no longer has access to that session, but they did not show up.
“When a client no-shows, we burn the session, because we lost that hour. They still get charged for that session. We also burn sessions if a trainer has a group training session with their clients. That’s rare, but it does occasionally happen. Obviously, we cannot burn sessions to train people on our own time. That’s stealing!”
Joe continued, “My blood is boiling, Joe. I want to fire him on the spot!”
There was a long pause. Pete was the king of pauses. Sometimes, Joe wondered if he was even listening. The pause gave Last to Know Joe time to realize how pathetic he was sounding. He was completely lacking control. And just as he realized it, Pete chimed in.
“Joe let’s slow down a little bit and really consider what you want your actions to look like right now.”
Pete paused, and continued, “Talk to me about the impact this has on business.”
“Well, this is how trainers end up stealing gym clients and working with them under the table. I work hard to get clients, so client theft costs thousands of dollars!” Joe was just short of shouting.
“And what else?”
“The integrity! He’s making Joe’s Gym look like a joke. What kind of manager doesn’t know when he’s being swindled?” Joe continued, “If I have trainers burning sessions, what else are they doing that I don’t know about? For all I know, he’s stolen clients before. He could have an entire fitness operation at his home, on my dime!”
“Tell me this, Joe… I want you close your eyes and tap into the best version of a leader you can possibly be. Really take a moment to picture the way you coach your team, the way you hold people accountable, and the way you make sure things are done with integrity and passion. Take a moment. Do not rush this.”
Those words washed over Joe like a strong wave in the ocean.
“Close your eyes and tap into the best version of a leader you can possibly be.”
Upon that statement, Joe began to cool down. He took a few deep breaths. “Is this really the kind of leader I want to be seen as? A lunatic?” He closed his eyes.
Joe imagined taking his time to mull the situation over for the day. He pictured himself walking in tomorrow, holding himself to a higher standard. He would wear a better outfit to work. He’d look more professional. He would not only play the part of a leader, but he would look the part of a leader. He dreamed of his face having less visible tension. He dreamed of standing at the front desk, enjoying banter with customers as they walked in. And he imagined knowing that today he would address the problem at hand.
Joe took a deep breath and asked himself, “how would I handle that?”
His mind took him on a journey. Tyler was sitting on a workout bench taking session notes in between clients. With a pencil in his hand, he gazed into the distance.
“Hey Tyler! Do you have about 15-minutes?” He checked Tyler’s schedule ahead of time, so he knew exactly how much time they had.
“Sure, Joe.” Tyler looked at his watch.” My next client isn’t for another half-hour.”
“Great, let’s go take a seat together.”
“Tyler, can you tell me about your client, Susan? I noticed a session was burned recently.”
Tyler was shocked that he asked. Joe was usually so uninformed that he thought he’d never figure it out. He responded but didn’t want to give too much information. “Yes, what about it?”
“Well, Tyler, I need to know why that session was burned. Can you tell me exactly what’s going on?”
Tyler pattered around the truth for a while, but Joe continued introducing his knowledge on other burned sessions and more questions that would eventually force a confession.
The tone got very serious. “Tyler, I need you to understand that I do believe in you, and I admire you. I really do. But you have committed a very serious integrity violation.”
Joe went on to explain the severity of the situation. “Tyler, I’m going to have to deliver a Corrective Action to you and consider other next steps. At this moment, I do not know what the outcome will be, but I am compelled to advise you that this could lead to your termination.”
As Joe explained the picture in his mind, Pete became curious. “Joe, do you have policies in place for this at the moment? Do you have templates for Disciplinary Action?”
“I do not,” Joe admitted.
“That’s okay. I just needed to know.” Pete wrote this down. “Please continue.”
“Well, I think I would take a couple weeks to research the situation more deeply. I might even consult with an attorney, just to cover my bases. I don’t really have a process for this kind of thing, and if I do end up having to terminate him, I want to do it the right way. I don’t want to face a wrongful termination.”
He continued, “Pete, the fact that you had me tap into my potential was beyond helpful. I didn’t realize I had the answer within myself. This feels truly remarkable.”
“Joe, you are superhuman. My goal is simply to help you realize that” Pete said. “Listen, Joe, are you a football fan?”
“What’s the point of the offense?”
“To score, yes. And in order to do that, they need to progress the ball forward, right?”
“Well, that’s business. In our business, we want to move the ball forward. Now, it turns out, this is a monumental task. All players have to perform their job optimally, don’t they? Both on the field and in the gym. Your job as the manager, Joe, is to support your team to move the ball forward. And in order to do that, you’ll have two types of guidance you’ll employ when somebody isn’t helping the team as best they can; coaching and discipline.”
“Coaching is partnering with employees who are trying to move the ball forward but need support in some way. They’re making short plays, but they really should be making longer plays. We give them the guidance they need to turn their short plays into longer plays so we can score.”
“Discipline is partnering with employees who are stopping us from moving the ball forward. Their actions are preventing us from doing our job… Scoring. For these people, we have to determine whether they’re going to support the team or get off it.”
“Does Trainer Tyler need coaching or discipline,” Pete asked?
“Tyler is stopping us from moving the ball forward. He’s hurt the team. He needs discipline.”
Pete agreed. “Now that may be true. He seems to have committed an act that hurts the team. But, Joe, you’ve still got to speak with him in a fair and firm manner, because he is in fact on your team.”
He continued… “Whether you’re coaching or disciplining, let your employee know that you believe in them. And this is important, Joe… You need to mean it. Let them know you believe in them until the day they turn in their badge. And even after they leave, still believe. That’s pillar one.”
Pete continued, “Pillar two is what I call ‘guidance.’ Tell him what he did wrong. Tell him how to do it right. And explain any potential consequences of his actions.”
Pete explained that during a disciplinary discussion, there will be discomfort. “Sometimes you have to allow them to feel the burn a little,” he explained. What he meant was that the person has done something wrong, and the emotion that comes with that is not only normal, but also important. “Allow them to feel the consequences of their actions, but do not force them to feel it. Do you see what I mean?” He chuckled, “Don’t hurt the guy, but if he feels the discomfort, let him feel it.”
The energy lightened with his laughter. “Is that making sense, Joe? What are your thoughts right now?”
“Perfect sense. Let him know I believe. Tell him what he did wrong. Tell him how to do it right. And explain the consequences.”
Joe continued, “Oh, and let him feel the burn. I suspect that the feeling of discomfort is good because, after all, he has done something wrong.”
“Exactly, it may get a little emotional. It may get a little awkward. That’s good. Don’t shy away from that.”
Pete stood up and extended his hand for a handshake. “Let’s talk ‘coaching’ next time. It’ll lighten the mood a bit.”
Joe walked Pete out, confident that he could take on anything Joe’s Gym threw at him. They said their goodbyes.
As Joe headed toward the water fountain, a light bulb struck. “Oh,” he exclaimed as he pivoted and jogged back to his office.
He pulled out his secret paper. On it, he wrote, “lack of holding people accountable…” He paused, unsure how to quantify this one… He decided to quantify not necessarily the worst-case scenario, but a bad case scenario… He imagined a scenario where a trainer burnt sessions because they were stealing clients. It wasn’t the exact scenario he was facing (hopefully,) but it was a pretty ugly scenario that would cost him the loss of revenue, the cost of regaining another client, and also the cost of replacing an employee, not to mention the cost of the process of terminating an employee.
“20,000,” he estimated. He was excited to put a figure to it. Having this knowledge and clarity gave him hope. “If I can just hold people accountable, and be proactive rather than reactive, I will save my business tens-of-thousands of dollars.”
Suddenly, tracking the potential cost of his poor management was like a game. A game of how much money he was saving himself by getting this coach and solving these problems.
Joe took a few notes on his notepad.
“I believe in you.”
What he did wrong.
How to get it right next time.
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