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It’s Not Your Employees’ Fault - Uncommon Service Truth #3

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jan 29, 2024

If your company delivers disappointing service consistently, or excellent service in fits and starts, it’s not because you hired an entire company of people who just don’t get it.

The problem is you’ve built a service model for phantom employees you wish you had—but don’t.

Your business isn’t systematically delivering bad service. It’s just inconsistent. Sometimes your team nails it, other times they miss it.

Good service that’s intermittent is not good!

Try Harder?

UNCOMMON SERVICE - The Four Service Truths Truth #3 from Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business dispels the idea your employees are at fault for your poor or inconsistent service.

Michael Geber in the E-Myth Revisited shared, “You can’t manage people. People are unmanageable. You can only manage a system.”

A try-harder solution is built on the logic: if one employee can deliver excellence, then everyone else should be able to. Managers believe since one person can perform in the system, the input that matters most is individual effort.

Uncommon Service’s message is: IT’S NOT!

The way you design your business, the employee management system, matters!

Not all your employees are superheroes. Uncommon Service shares “Most companies have a continuum on the payroll, from the exceptionally talented to the should-definitely-be doing-something-else-with-their-lives.”

People dont fail, Systems Do - Michael Gerber E-Myth Revisited Can YOU acknowledge this?

Unless you have the resources and capacity to systematically attract, reward, and unleash the very best in your industry, some of the people now reporting to you cannot be objectively characterized as outstanding.

The next acknowledgment, you’re probably making your employees’ jobs harder.

Uncommon Service shares that as companies seek new sources of revenue, organizational complexity increases. A quick-service restaurant they studied had its menu grow from 25 items to more than 100 in a few years. The number of ways the cashier could ring up this restaurant’s signature drink grew to 55!

Your average employee is drowning in complexity. Your jobs are designed for superhumans.  How many superhumans do you have on your payroll?

Successful Employee Management System

Bugs Burger Bug Killers (BBBK)According to Uncommon Service, in a service model that works, employees are reasonably able and reasonably motivated to achieve excellence. The able part is made possible by selection, training, and job designs that set up real-world employees to succeed. The motivated part is facilitated by a performance management system that makes them want to do their jobs effectively (and makes it hard to do them badly).

Uncommon Service provides several examples of exemplary businesses that achieved success in both areas. Bugs Burger Bug Killers (BBBK) recruited two specific employee profiles—perfectionists and potential managers who thrived on the idea of excellence. The process was designed entirely to identify these two types of individuals. The rigor of the experience helped attract the target profiles by reinforcing the message that BBBK was in a league of its own.

Burgerbugkillers The BBBK GUARANTEESThe real trick to selection is to know exactly which traits you’re looking for—and then to design a process that reliably uncovers them.

Southwest Airlines interviews potential hires in groups, bringing other employees and even customers into the process. In this setup, job seekers, company representatives, and valued customers are included in the interview process. An applicant is asked to stand up and describe their most embarrassing moment. It sounds like an aggressive selection process, designed by Southwest to stress the applicant/speaker’s confidence.

Southwest_Airlines_Brand_PromiseThis is not the case, however. While the person describes his most embarrassing moment, making themselves vulnerable to strangers who are competing for a job (very uncomfortable!) Southwest recruiters are watching the other applicants.

They’re looking for clues of empathy. Is the listening applicant showing signs of empathy for the storyteller? Empathy is Southwest secret sauce for serving their customers!

Your recruiting and hiring process needs to focus on what you need, and the design of your system to deliver the service you expect.

In an ideal world, all your employees would be high in attitude and high in aptitude. These people inhabit the upper right quadrant of Figure 3–1.Uncommon Service - Employees who rate hight on multiple measures are expensive to hire They are highly motivated, dream team employees who are also deliciously competent.  These are the people you usually have in mind when mapping your route to uncommon service.

The problem is, you’re not the only one who wants these people, and as a result, they’re expensive.

The goal of an excellent service organization is to deliver outstanding results with average employees.

Successful employee management systems have four main components: selection, training, job design, and performance management. These components must be internally consistent and aligned with the rest of the service model. There’s no such thing as good or bad selection, for example. The issue is whether it’s consistent with the rest of the employee management system and whether the system is consistent with the rest of the service model.

When a company identifies a gap between operational complexity and employee sophistication, it has two choices: change the people or change the job. 

  1. Train and hire differently, OR
  2. Redesign the job so your current team can do it.

To create an environment where everyone is inspired to give their best, contact Positioning Systems to schedule a free exploratory meeting.

Turn your team into a growth organization.  

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.

Overcoming the trade-off between effciency and service - Uncommon Service - Figure 4-1If you run a service business, then your customers “work” for you in many of the same ways that your employees do. You essentially don’t know which people are on your team, when they’re showing up, and what they’re going to do once they get there. You need a plan for managing this uncertainty. Next blog we explore Uncommon Service Truth #4: Managing the Chaos of Customers.

Building an enduring great organization requires disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, superior results, producing a distinctive impact on the world.

4Dx Cadence of AccountabilityDiscipline sustains momentum, over a long period of time, laying the foundations for lasting endurance.

A winning habit starts with 3 Strategic DisciplinesPriorityMetrics, and Meeting Rhythms.   Forecasting, accountability, individual, and team performance improve dramatically.

Meeting Rhythms achieve a disciplined focus on performance metrics to drive growth.

Let Positioning Systems help your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:












Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $500M+) businesses Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing! Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

NEXT BLOG – You Must Manage Your Customer – Uncommon Service Truth #4Uncommon Service - Service Excellence = Design × Culture


Topics: Michael Gerber, strategy decisions, Strategy - How, The E-Myth Revisited, Uncommon Service, The Four Service Truths, Frances Frei Anne Morriss, People Don't Fail, Systems Do

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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