Are You Trying To Make Pigs Fly (or Expecting Employees to Do Things They’re Not Cut Out to Do)?

Are You Trying To Make Pigs Fly (or Expecting Employees to Do Things They’re Not Cut Out to Do)?

3.7 min read

Skip Weisman

A common complaint is about employees who repeatedly fail to follow through on specifically requested tasks. The reason for the lack of follow through is often something like “not enough time, couldn’t get to it.”  I cringe when I hear business leaders admit they begrudgingly continue to “accept” this excuse. (Accept is in quotations because they don’t  really accept it, they became frustrated with it and want it to change as the status quo is unacceptable and negatively impacts on business results.)

When I first heard this from a couple of my own clients, I presumed that their employees just weren’t committed to the job and helping the company achieve its goals. I was told in both cases that was not an accurate assessment as these employees were “good employees that were always on time for work, rarely took days off and worked hard while on duty.”

I then said, “Then its just procrastination as they are not comfortable doing what you are asking of them and they avoid it. They are “yessing” you and always defaulting to activities they are more comfortable performing, letting your priorities slip.”

The next day I received a call from one of these clients saying, “You were right, she admitted to me she wasn’t comfortable making the calls I was asking her to make.”  No kidding!

You can’t make pigs fly!

And you can’t have a receptionist, hired because of a personality geared toward make people happy and liking your organization, make collection calls or missed appointment reschedules. You can’t have a vet technician who prefers to interact with animals over humans make outgoing phone calls for collections while also struggling with challenging conversations with patients over billing and appointments.

In small businesses I realize it is imperative for people to fill multiple roles and multi task. I get that. But if that is the job expectation, you better invest more time in hiring the right person for that dual role.

Stop hiring the first person that has some of the skills you determine are your highest priority and then try to squeeze in the other responsibilities after they’re hired, or without full disclosure during the original hiring process. This is bait and switch.

I coach my clients to paint the most challenging job expectations as possible so that reality will never be as tough as articulated in the meeting and have the employee sell themselves that they are a fit for contributing to that type of work environment.

Quite simply, you must invest time on the front end of the hiring process to:

1. Create a job description that includes specific performance expectations and job outcomes and make it as comprehensive as possible for the position you are looking to fill.

2. Develop specific behavior based questions of your applicants in the interview process that are geared to generate answers that will let you know how they would react to real life situations they may encounter in your work environment.

3. Invest at least as much time in evaluating an individual’s personality, attitude and beliefs around work ethic, personal and professional growth and development, and working in teams, etc as you do investigating their work experience and education.

Make sure you have people who are working in their areas of strength 80% of the time if you want happy, productive employees.

Baseball teams do not have catchers playing center field, or third basemen coming in as relief pitchers. In football, quarterbacks do not play defensive line, and wide receivers do not kick field goals.

And, pushing a pig out an airplane door at 15,000 feet to try and teach them to fly will just give you a dead pig when they hit the ground with a loud “splat!” Trying to get employees to perform tasks they are not suited for will cause them to fall just as flat!

Are you trying to make pigs fly in your hiring and employee performance expectations?

About the author:

Skip Weisman is The Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert. Skip works with the leaders and teams in small to medium sized businesses and not-for-profits to improve communication, collaboration and teamwork in a way that delivers champion level results. You can find out more about Skip’s work at .

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  • Quote of the Day

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