Why my morning coffee reminds me of your supervisory skills

I have this little one-cup coffee maker that I use in the morning to make my coffee. Sometimes, I make it the “normal” way by adding the water to the pot, adding the coffee, placing the cup below, and pressing START. When I make my coffee this way, I add my milk after the brewing process. However, many times, I like to live on the edge and I pour the water in the pot, put the milk in my cup, microwave the milk to warm it, place the cup in position, and wait to see what happens. Oh, did I mention I’m not a measurer? I like to feel like I have a good eye for quantities and I’ll know just how much water to put in the pot and how much milk to put in my cup to ensure it doesn’t overflow.

About 8 mornings out of 10, I get my guestimates correct enough that the coffee fills to the brim, or close, but doesn’t overflow. The other 2 mornings, there may be coffee all over the counter, running down the cabinets, etc. Many of you reading this are thinking, “So why do you do it then?” Well here’s my answer: Because 80% of the time I’m rewarded, or at least not penalized, for my behavior. For me, the 20% of the time it goes wrong apparently isn’t enough for me to change.

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with your supervisory skills. Well here goes . . .

When I talk to leaders about problems they’re having with their employees, many times they’ll say, “But I talked to him already about it.” Here’s the problem. When employees have a bad habit, or when mistakes occur again, it’s not enough to just tell yourself you already talked to them about it. If you only mention the problem periodically, say 2 times out of 10, there may not be enough incentive for your employees to change their behavior.

The moral of the story is, when bad behavior occurs, you need to address it each and every time if you want to have any possibility of changing it. If you don’t, you just might find you have employees who are okay with making a mess some of the time with no consequences.

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