Guident Newsletter – Issue 3

People and Aluminum are different, Go Figure!

A few years ago I was coaching an owner of a fabrication business.  He is one of the smartest people I know, and a very talented fabricator of aluminum products.  I watched as he created precision bends and welds on the materials he used in his trade.  He had a very good business but he did have a challenge with keeping good people.  I was hired to help him understand why he had such high turnover rates, which as you know costs organizations time and money.

One day I witnessed him speaking harshly to an employee.  After the fact we talked about what spurred his emotions with that individual.  In fact, I was told by other employees of the firm that this type of behavior from “The Boss” was common place and was one of the main reasons people left the company.  The owner explained how frustrated he was that he had to tell his people again and again before they understood what he wanted on the fabrication floor.

I asked him to bring me a piece of scrap aluminum, which he did.  It was approximately a foot by a foot square.  I asked him to bend the aluminum to a 90° angle, so he did.  I then placed it next to his computer and said we would talk about why later.  The next day we went into his office and looked at the piece of aluminum.  We talked about how the piece was still bent at that 90° angle and hadn’t changed.  I explained that his people aren’t like this piece of aluminum, a material which he worked with most of his career.  The aluminum doesn’t go flat overnight. doesn’t miss understand that it should stay bent.  People often times need to be told and/or shown a new task over and over again until they experience that “ah ha” moment and finally get it!  His employee turnover problem was a symptom of a greater challenge, unclear and/or poor communications.

I asked the owner to remember this piece of aluminum and think twice before getting frustrated with his people.  When on the shop floor I could just say, “he isn’t a piece of aluminum” and the owner would immediately adjust his tone and explain again what he was looking for and why.  A few years after we stopped working together I visited him in his shop and he took me into his office to show me he still had that piece of aluminum on his desk.  It was his “trophy” as he bragged to me that he had very little turnover in staff and was doing well.  I congratulated him and he let me buy him lunch!

-Gary Vaughan
Founding Member
Guident Business Solutions