“The way people learn determines how you teach.” – Howard Hendricks, Teaching to Change Lives

Early in my management stead in the food-service industry, I was faced with a dilemma.

Our restaurant was not receiving consistent sizes and weights of a certain product from one of our suppliers. In our effort to serve our customers an excellent product, we promptly contacted the supplier to resolve the problem. The supplier owned the problem and without any further discussion assured us that he would rectify the situation immediately, almost as if he was walking out of the door to his office at that very moment to confront the issue.

After the next shipment arrived, we were not surprised to see the problem had in fact been rectified and the product did meet our specifications. Unfortunately, the story is not over.

One month after the first phone call to the supplier was made reporting bad product, we begrudgingly called again to report the same exact issue. The response: “I will personally see to it this never happens again.”

In response, we asked one very insightful question: “How was this supposedly handled last time and how do we know the outcome will be any different this time?”

He seemed somewhat confused by this question, as if we should already know the answer. He said they would “initiate a lock down.” In further explanation, the plant manager illustrated a scene in which hundreds of people at their plant are individual contributors to a massive assembly line that results in the product we receive.

In a “lock down,” all conveyer belts are halted which causes all the people to stop working. The manager would step out of his office overlooking the factory and proceed to berate all the workers for their errors and threaten them with their jobs if their performance did not improve. At that point, the belts would be turned back on and the workers would return to their positions.

This company did a great job of owning the problem, but there was poor execution in the attempt to eliminate the issue.

Had the supplier treated their employees with dignity and respect and attempted clearer communication, some progress might have been made. However, the main point in recounting this experience is to grasp Hendricks’ quote: Your business’ success is sustained over the long-term, when you allow the way people learn to determine how you teach.

In our Atlanta recruiting and staffing process, we place people with initiative and work ethic. Our desire is that each Atlanta company we work with will treat them respect and dignity.