Gym crackers

Young adults doing exercises at the fitness clubOur local leisure centre has had a change of provider. One well-known company has taken over the running of it from another. However, they do seem to have management problems under the new regime.

In recent weeks, my wife and her friends have been messed around with their exercise class in the swimming pool. One week they were telephoned at home to be advised that the class had been cancelled because there was no instructor to run it. Later, it transpired that the instructor was actually unavailable for the following week. She had turned up to find there was no one there for her class, so it was cancelled anyway, and also obviously for the following week when she really wasn’t there. That seems like poor management and a lack of communication.

Now I hear that several ladies who have a studio class found their latest instructor poor, and apparently she is not qualified. They asked to see the manager, who had recently been promoted from swimming pool duties as a number of staff had left with the old management company.

The ladies expressed their concern about the quality of their exercise class. I do not know how strongly they made their point, but apparently this manager said “I am not talking to a lynch mob” and walked away. The problem was not resolved.

Of course this guy has possibly been promoted beyond his ability (the Peter Principle), and certainly lacks training which he should have been given. What has resulted is a very poor example of customer relations, and of customer service since he should have been offering compensation, even if it had been vouchers for free coffee in the café.

Word gets around. Reputations are damaged. If you asked me privately which leisure centre we are talking about, I would probably tell you.

Of course we can have difficult customers. Sometimes, if things have gone wrong, we must take responsibility. What we must not do is alienate those who provide our livelihoods.

How simple it is to ask “how can I make it up to you?”

The Peter Principle and the newly unemployed

A rhino I met once

I recently asked a local government councillor if he could advise on a local issue. He was of no help whatever. Firstly he didn’t seem to understand the problem and secondly he wanted to pass the buck to someone else. Maybe he was having a bad day, though his emailed reply to me was barely coherent.

You know who this guy reminded me of? One of those people who work in large organizations and who have been promoted beyond their ability in accordance with the Peter Principle. This states that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”. We can’t blame these people for their failures. They just can’t help it.

Of course undue promotion may not just place people beyond their technical ability. Often their actual technical ability may lead to promotion beyond their managerial ability. When I worked for a large firm of accountants there were managers and partners who were technically excellent but entirely incapable of looking after human beings. They didn’t understand at all how to relate to them, get the best out of them or manage their needs. They were insensitive or maybe had the skins of rhinoceroses.

Serious geeks like these people need to be left to get on with what they are good at and of course reward them properly. Not everyone is cut out to look after people or indeed to make management decisions; decisions which affect the future of a business.

I worry about those types who are coming out of employment rather sooner than they might have expected. Either they will be bored to death on their possibly reduced pensions with the current low annuity rates or they will feel impelled to go freelance but won’t actually have a clue how to talk to the people they need.

You cannot run a small business if you do not know how to deal with people. Will coaching help with this? Would someone who is not a people-person always realise their inadequacy in this area, or just blame everyone else for their failings? I don’t know the answer. Do you?