I know I said that these blog entries would be about Disney classics, but I watched this animated short film (still made by Disney!) the other day to kill some time and it really hit me. So, please forgive this slight side-step.
Film: Tick Tock Tale
Release Date: Created in 2010, released in 2015 as part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection
Setting (well, Synopsis): At a clock shop in London, the clock maker locks-up for the night just before 11pm. In the darkened shop, all of the clocks chime the hour before returning to their normal tick-tocking. Then, 5 minutes later, 1 lone clock begins to chime: the little clock with the sign “75% OFF: RUNS SLOW.” The other clocks make fun of him for not being on time like everyone else, as well as for the lederhosen-clad figure perched on his head. In his despair, the clock attempts to remove the figure to no avail.
Later that night, a thief covers the sound of breaking in to the shop with the midnight chimes of the other clocks. The thief gathers many of the expensive time pieces and makes his way back to his car, avoiding a nearby policeman. However, he is followed by the little clock, who begins his chime at 12:05am, alerting the nearby policeman to return to stop the thief, but not before our hero is smashed to pieces.
The next morning, as the clock maker finishes his statement to the police, he collects the pieces of the little broken clock and places them in the garbage can behind his counter before returning to his workshop in the back. A moment later, he hears a noise and returns to the counter to find the waste bin empty and the broken clock now on the counter (placed there by the other clocks) next to a sign that reads, “No Repair is Too Small.” He takes the clock to his workshop, repairs it back to full working order, and returns it to the shelf before removing the discount sign. At the next chiming of the hour, the hero-clock joins the rest of the shop in a celebratory 7am chime.
A cute story, right? And I’m going to talk about the sacrifice of the little clock, right? Wrong. I want to talk about the clock maker.
Leadership Lesson: Don’t discount what you can fix instead.
It is a typical practice in the retail world to sell damaged or defective products at a discounted rate. After all, who wants to pay full price for something that doesn’t give you full value? Most of the time, these defects are things that can’t be fixed: scratches, dents, etc. We have become accustomed to this practice and fully expect to not have to pay full price for an item that is not 100% perfect and up to standard.
But can we use this same practice with people?
The clock maker, as evidenced at the end of the film, had the necessary tools and skill to return the clock to full working condition. However, instead of taking the time to make these repairs, he opted to discount the little clock instead. The clock had the full potential to run on-time as he was expected to do, but he needed fine-tuning in order to achieve this goal.
I know that not every employee is right for every job, so please don’t think that’s where I’m going with this. However, if we do have a member of our team who is struggling more than others, but still getting the job done, what do we do with them? Do we encourage them to move to a different team that might be a better fit? Do we allow them to struggle and hope they “self-select” while focusing more on building-up the stronger members?
Or do we fix the problem with the understanding that strengthening one member strengthens the whole team?
As a leader, our focus is usually split in several directions, all the while knowing that our people are our #1 priority. We can face a lot of pressure to split our time evenly across our team. But is that really necessary? Does the person achieving 110% productivity need as much coaching as the person achieving 80%? Of course not. Your top performers still need your encouragement and guidance, but your lower performers are the ones who really need your attention. They’re the ones who need assistance to figure out where their weak points are, and to be given the tools to strengthen them. Perhaps they need help in better understanding time management, prioritization, etc. Perhaps there are processes they are not handling in the most efficient manner.
Whatever the problem is, the solution is this: take the time to complete the necessary repairs so that the end result is having 1 more strong team member instead of 1 less weak one.
“On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”
– Bill Belichick, Head Coach New England Patriots (2000-Present), New York Jets (1999), Cleveland Browns (1991-95)