Are We Coaching & Training TO or Through the Target?

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by Bill Catlette

Recently, I was a guest at a major chain hotel (starts with an M), enjoying a complimentary meal at their breakfast buffet. Everything was fully squared away as it usually is at this property.

A man walked slowly but confidently into the room, led by a proficient and well-behaved service dog. As he approached the buffet counter, the attendant in the room stopped him rather brusquely, advising him that, “Your dog can’t be in the area of the food.” She sternly repeated if for emphasis, at which point, he left. 

I’m guessing (underscore, guessing) that she was, at 7AM and the “point of the spear” executing exactly what she had been taught in foodservice safety training. But as is too often the case it, stopped there. Her training (and subsequent coaching) should perhaps have included something about finding a way whenever possible, to enforce a perfectly well-intended policy AND satisfy the guest at the same time, avoiding unintended consequences. 

She might, for example, have suggested that he take a seat, described the buffet contents for him, and offered to bring his food to the table, a task that would have taken less than two  minutes, kept that guest happy AND the state of North Carolina happy, and creating a much better impression for the dozen or so others seated nearby. 

Having taken not one, but two gun safety classes, we were taught in each case to, before pulling the trigger, look thru (beyond) the intended target to avoid collateral damage should the shot miss, or pass completely through the target. Having done a fair amount of training over my career, I now recognize that, too often in our training and coaching, we train TO the target and then call it a day, leaving some real meat on the bone.

I’ll leave you with this challenge. Closely examine both your workplace training practices AND the amount of discretionary authority given to front-line workers to use their brain and do the whole job. Most of those involved will likely find the net effect liberating. Your customers just might like it better too.

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