Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Month: February 2015

Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation

Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??

 

THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

Planet Fitness has been making the news with other member terminations lately. Here is one where a customer complains about what looks to be a man in her ladies locker room — www.wnem.com/story/28278233/planet-fitness-drops-member-after-gender-identity-complaint – It is apparently a “No Judgement Zone” as a gym and a “No Complaints Zone” as a corporate membership policy. The woman had an issue and she gets terminated. Hope that Planet Fitness likes the negative publicity about their leadership issues.

There should be a sign: Got a Complaint? Take it Outside.

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels will roll in Amman, Jordan

The International Association for People and Performance Development (IAPPD) is a fast-growing network of performance improvement specialists. I had the distinct pleasure to be invited to present at their MENA Conference (Middle East Northern Africa) and to have the chance to improve my perspective on how things work in the world.

IAPPD Logo 100

I framed up most of my program, which will include a morning program using our new Square Wheels LEGO tools for improving communications with a focus on ownership and engagement. I am going to model some different facilitation approaches to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement and the identification of issues and opportunities for change.

Watch a 50 second video here and click on the poster image below to go to the conference registration site:

Scott_Simmerman_IAPPD_2015_MENA_Conference_Square_Wheels_and_Lost_Dutchman

IAPPD SWs LDGM marketing graphic

My afternoon session will build on teamwork, alignment and collaboration as we use our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, as a tool for organizational improvement. You can click on the link above and see a short video about the exercise.

We’re expecting a large turnout and also inviting people to bring teams from their organizations to make the day into a real organizational development workshop. I’ll be embedding the train-the-trainer into the Square Wheels and also be available to do any instructional training for people interested in buying and running the Dutchman program themselves.

Jordan will be my 41st country to visit and I am looking forward to the trip and the workshops,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Zero Engagement at PlanetFitness?

For almost a year, I have gone to the PlanetFitness operation not far from my office. They did a really good job of converting a dead KMart location into a busy and viable business, which was the anchor for the whole strip mall. It seemed like a really good operation.

building

With my business being organizational improvement and addressing the Square Wheels that often exists within operations, there were a number of things that I had commented on to assist management in keeping things clean or noticing a piece of equipment not working and similar.

One constant complaint was the music — I really did not like it and continually joked that the playlist was selected by the owner’s 13-year old daughter, since it constantly reflected that type of music and seldom anything else. The lack of fit was obvious – the average age of the customers during the times I was there was probably 40 and many wore cumbersome headphones and earbuds. Even the staff did not like it and suggested I complain. I did, online at their main website, but never got a response. I never got a response to the dozen or so Twitter complaints with their #planetfitness tag… (One has to assume that they monitor that, right?)

Well, a real Square Wheels became apparent to me about a month ago, concerning a cleanliness / health issue. They have pads available for stretching that many people use, but few actually clean. Now, I clean the pad thoroughly before and after I use it – and I wish others would simply spray it down when they are done.  My guess if that there were better customer loyalty, which is driven by employee loyalty and commitment, things would generally be better.

But this sanitation situation also got me thinking about physical solutions to change people’s behaviors, as I think with pretty much everything I see. The cause is, in part, location of the use of the mats. Customers use the pads far from any cleaning station and many are too lazy to walk the 50 feet (even though they are there for fitness!). They are not actually stored there, but that is where customers choose to leave them. And many of the customers use these pads on the floor in a high foot-traffic area:

room

The door on the far left is where staff go to get cleaning supplies and leads to a back door where they probably park cars and keep their lunches, etc. I have not been back there, but there is constant traffic through that door. You can also see one of the yellow cleaning stations in that far back right corner.

SEE THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS THAT  THIS SIMPLE
SUGGESTION CAUSED – UPDATE IS HERE

My simple idea is to move the first row of machines forward to be on both sides of that purple pole and then move that second row of machines forward, putting the pads on that white wall and moving the cleaning station to the middle. Traffic would be improved and the people would be in a more private area of the room. With the pads nearer the cleaning stuff, customers would be more likely to wipe things down. They would also keep them back there instead of all over the building. Seems easy, with no cost.

In talking with the manager, he basically said that it was a corporate decision on design and that this was the way they wanted it. He could not even try it — he could NOT make the change and my impression is that changing this would get him in trouble!

My proactive self then asked if he could make the suggestion to someone and he essentially threw up his hands with a “that would never work / they would never listen” kind of response. I would guess he tried that before, since he had been with the company a long time. My guess is that he would not bother to make the suggestion. I even got the impression, based on a question, that my suggesting directly it would not even get a response.

I asked the staff, who are great. ALL of them are good people, including the manager. But they also confirmed that making a suggestion was a waste of time. A couple had apparently made suggestions about the music and other things but gotten no reaction.

IS it really corporate policy to not respond to requests and suggestions about business improvement ideas from customers and employees? Seriously? One wonders about the morale of the employees in different locations, working for average or below average store managers (remember that there is a normal curve of performance among any group of people — half are above average and half are below, statistically!)

One wonders about employee turnover and other business costs.

Another real impact is the sales of materials. PlanetFitness devotes visual space to branded merchandise:

people 1

But they don’t sell much. My guess is that locker combination locks and the different skin creams are much bigger sellers than the branded t-shirts. With high margins on these items, suggestive selling by loyal employees would certainly add revenues to the store and company.

But my educated guess is that sales are minor, that engagement is nil, and that the company is successful simply because of positioning in the marketplace. I also know that competition is a real thing and the playing field will change.

Why does the company NOT encourage ideas for improvement in store operations? Why is there so much un-engagement? My guess is that they just do not value people — customers and employees — in their overall efforts to manage their business.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
(John Le Carre)

And if it were me, I would sure be out there asking for new ideas and talking with everyone whose behavior determines my success. As a customer, I sure would appreciate it if the place were kept better sanitized. If the employees and customers don’t care, only price will drive them into the business.

Maybe someone from corporate will actually read this blog and consider doing something differently, like visiting the property and asking employees for ideas to improve the business, both the operational stuff along with the customer service along with the merchandise sales. Stay tuned, I guess… I share my ideas and information freely, like their staffs would.

After all, the round wheels are already in the wagon, but sometimes the rope used by the wagon puller can get pretty long!

Square Wheels One image of performance by scott simmerman

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Make Your Off-site Team Building Event Pay Off

Organizations hold off-site meetings to generate more alignment, introduce a new strategy initiative, build increased collaboration and related goals. The Big Idea is that the expenditures for these meetings will generate a return on that investment. I will loosely define one overall goal as “team building” and I will suggest some ideas and frameworks that will actually accomplish some of that.

These events and meetings should involve and engage participants and generate a better sense of ownership and involvement about what they might choose to do differently: “more better faster cheaper.” But inspiration alone won’t cut it and lectures and presentations will sometimes distract people from their emails. People will often drift off from a presentation and knowledge does not always translate into behavior change. Just explaining things will only have a modest impact on results or generate any change in behavior, as you have probably witnessed.

Human beings are paradoxical creatures.
What I know does not directly translate into what I do.

We judge ourselves by our intentions.
We judge others by their behavior.

And we are known to have that common behavior of overestimating our own performance when good measurements are not good.  This cognitive bias for over-estimating even has a term: illusory superiority.”

Examples abound:

  • In one study, 84% of the students predicted they would cooperate with their partner, but only 61% actually did. The irony is that their prediction of other student’s behavior was close to actual.
  • people with a below-average IQ tend to overestimate their IQ
  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.
  • For driving skill, 93% of the US drivers put themselves in the top 50% of all vehicle operators.

We will not delve into all the reasons for this; the information is nicely covered in a Wikipedia article. Here, let’s focus on practicalities when it comes to costs and impacts and generating commitment and change.

Here are some ideas and possible solutions that represent my personal biases along with 30 years of experience in these kinds of settings:

Have really solid goals and expectations for what you want to see done differently.  Communicating ideas and data might give someone the chance to be seen, but it is a pretty costly way to move that information. Think about the past and what worked well insofar as meeting goals and actual outcomes – what kinds of things helped attendees do something differently after the meeting to solve problems or improve results.

1 – Communicate before the meeting with the facts, information and relevant data that people will need to do things differently. Give them the tools and pre-thinking review time to allow the data to link with any new information or stimulate new ideas. Most people think better with time for processing and consideration and new ideas generally link to old information.

2 – Put the right people in the seats. Maybe you do need everyone to attend, but maybe you don’t. If your meeting is a celebration junket, that is different than if it is a key meeting to drive out a new strategic plan. The people who are there should be the people who need to be there! Everyone else is either costly or distracting or both.

3 – Let their feets get them off their seats. Do things that get them moving around and interacting in some kind of focused way. Breaks can be useful, but people are often off doing their own things with phone calls and emails instead of talking with each other about shared issues and desired changes. While some would suggest prohibiting cellphone use during the meetings, I think we should try to treat attendees as something other than third-grade students and allow them responsible use — you never know when they might have some real business emergency with a real business impact and you DO want them in the room and not out in the hallway expecting some call. Phones do have a vibrate setting!

4 – Design facilitated engagement and involvement. Don’t just do things TO people but insure that your sessions involve and engage them. Do things WITH attendees if you can. Solicit their ideas and their input. Challenge them to help solve business problems instead of presenting them with solutions, if you can.

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Be sure to do things to share ownership. People are more likely to take risks and challenges if they are invested in the situations.

5 – Allow people to work in teams but also collect their notes and thoughts. You can use worksheets or easel-pad brainstorming and mindmaps and similar tools. You can use dot-voting and other consensus-building activities. You can use twitter and other interactive media or collaboration software, if the group is comfortable with that approach. (You might encourage all of them to bring their laptops / notepads or smartphones to certain interactive work sessions.)

Leadership and presenters should be asking questions and generating perspective and sharing missions and visions more than they should be standing there “yelling and telling,” no matter how charismatic they are. Like John Le Carre wrote,

A desk is a dangerous place
from which to view the world

The more hands-on, broadly experiential the base of information, the more ownership involvement and real-world information you can generate, the better the impacts.

6 – Structure followup on the ideas that are generated and push people to do things differently. There are any number of ways to generate commitment and your current organizational culture and experience should offer you ideas about what kinds of things work (and what kinds of things do not). You might have each person post one good idea into email or on a specifically designed note card collected by the senior manager. You might organize natural teams to collect and look to help implement good ideas. Department heads might be tasked with generating 5 good ideas for change and improvement, along with action plans and a project management template of some kind.

But DO something. Make some things happen and attribute those positive results to the leadership and through the organization as experiences have shown to be successful. Too many meetings just end; they do not generate efforts at improvements, much less impact results.

If you are just meeting to meet, with no other expected changes, then consider communicating through podcasts or other techniques and save a whole big bunch of money in travel expenses, time and salaries. Your meeting should generate actions that impact results.

Summary:

The reason I write this post is that I have seen some events that really fail to generate what they could, simply because of the “powerpoint presentation culture” that exists in so many organizations. Similarly, I hear about programs that do the simply “fun team building” kinds of things, the electronic spin-the-wheel “Wheel of Fortune” games or the Jeopardy or treasure hunt activities, none of which will generate much real teamwork or real problem-solving or behavior change.

Since 1993, we have been developing and supporting an actual business simulation exercise with real impacts on teamwork and planning and which structures debriefings focused on shared missions and visions, expectations and teamwork. A differentiating feature is the anchor point to inter-team collaboration, rather than the more common competition between teams. For so many organizations, “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is an oxymoron rather than an implementation strategy. Generating real collaboration is of very high value to most businesses.

We offer a most excellent team building exercise that you can purchase for repeated use or rent for a one-time event.

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Logo with three icons

There are literally dozens of articles about the exercise here on the blog. Directly connect with me if this might be of any interest to your organization. I will try to share my thoughts and ideas about features and benefits of this exercise. It is straightforward in its delivery and not difficult to facilitate and link to a variety of desired outcomes. My coaching and design collaboration are free.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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