The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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Did You Hear Colin Cowerd’s Rant about Coach Disrupting Chemistry?

When I have a chance I really like to listen to “The Herd” on ESPN radio.   In fact, now that I get it on cable I will record it and even watch it when I’m winding down at the end of a long day.   Recently the radio show’s host Colin Cowerd talked about how the Utah Jazz coach made a mistake by disrupting the team’s chemistry in the middle of what was appearing to be a big comeback.   Utah was making this comeback with a group of back-ups who were playing really well together.  However, once a starter or two went back in the game, the comeback died.  Very interesting, I thought.

How does this apply to our swim schools?  Do you have a staff that works well together? Or have you ever had a staff where you had one or two “bad apples” that brought the rest of your team of instructors down?  Or cause friction?  Or jealousy?

I almost had that this year myself.   I had two teachers that were causing problems within their first month of employment.  My solution:  Get them off the schedule as quickly as possible!   How can you not?  They can literally destroy the continuity of your staff, set precedents you don’t want set, and give you a summer full of headaches you don’t need, or even ruin that BIG COMEBACK you were about to make!

Let me tell you about my two “bad apples:”

Employee #1, we’ll call Logan.  She was actually doing a good job teaching.  She had a strong work ethic and the children seemed to like her.   So where was the problem?  For one, she “thought” she was the best thing since the invention of the light bulb.  She thought she was irreplaceable and could do no wrong.  By the way, we all have some terrific employees, I know I do and when they leave I absolutely hate to see them go—but they can all be replaced.  I can go back through the years and give you numerous examples of employees for every year that I have been in business that I loved and hated to see them move on.  I wanted them on my staff forever.   But I can also tell you about employees that I have right now who are every bit as fantastic.

Back to Logan.  To put the icing on the cake, she was so “above” everyone else including me that she actually refused to call me to discuss her summer employment plans because “school came first” and she was busy studying.   This all started when she replied to a text I sent her and she said that she needed at least 30 hours or she needed to look for a second job.  Red flag #2!   Where is her commitment level at for the lessons I was about to schedule her for thru mid June?   So I simply asked for a contract thru at least June 15 so that I could have the peace of mind that when class started, the children would have a teacher.  When I asked for the commitment, she replied “I love this job” BUT “I’m still looking for another job” via text message.  I replied, “I want to talk to you so I can get a better feel where we stand.”  Again, another text, I can’t talk.  I’m in the library studying for a test.   I replied, “I need 5 minutes.”  I was leaning toward giving her the benefit of the doubt if I could hear what her plans with the other job were and knew we had an understanding. So I sent her another text, “I am putting Summer One classes online at midnight tonight and I need to talk to you before I do that.”   No call.  Can you believe she was shocked when she wasn’t on the schedule?   I hope she found that other job she wanted!  When you have an employee not willing to call you back to discuss their commitment, it spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!  No matter how well she teaches, you’re business and team of instructors are better off without her.

Employee #2, we’ll call Judy, was doing a decent job teaching BUT was as LAZY as they come.  In training just a few weeks ago, I stressed to my staff that if they did not have a class, they needed to at least “look busy.”  Help another teacher with their class, hose the deck, organize the equipment, etc.   The week after training she was sunbathing while on the clock.  I reminded her of what we went over and she said she understood.   One week later, same observation, and then the next week, complaints about her started coming in from my other employees including the deck supervisor.  Not to mention a few weeks earlier she agreed to work to help clean up the pool, do a little light landscape work, etc. as we prepared to open our outdoor pool.   I had 6 different teachers helping that day.  She stood out as being one who didn’t want to be there (though she wanted the pay), did as little as possible, and the jobs she did do were well below average (to be nice).  Where do you think she is working now?  I don’t know but I can tell you this, it’s not with us!

The truth is I really don’t like to “let go” of teachers.  To me, it’s a very difficult thing to do.  But when your gut tells you there’s something wrong and it’s only going to get worse, you have to do what’s best for your family and your business.  Before you “let someone go,” make sure you know the laws.  Make sure you have clearly explained your expectations in a training session and manual, and be certain to record the problems as they begin to occur.  As an employer, you need to protect yourself.   Make sure to do background checks.   Know the type of people you are hiring to the best of your ability.  I just heard of a business owner in my hometown that fired a guy and the guy who got fired turned around and set his home on fire and burned it to the ground!   Obviously that is an extreme case, but there are some mean, cruel people out there who really don’t care about you or your family at all.  Hopefully that guy will get locked up for a long time!

Hiring, selection, and training programs is a critical part of your business.   Hope some of these stories and tips help you.

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May 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm
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