Case Study: Case of Legislation, Part 2

A leader leads. A leader does not focus on the wants of those led; rather he or she focuses on what customers need, for it is through meeting those needs that the leader can pass to the workers what they need—a paycheck and a secure job.

Last month we said the first test of the leader is to legislate when the worker works. This month we focus on legislating what the worker does when they are working, the skills they must possess, and time taken off for vacations.

A simple example is a graphics person who refuses to use spell check. “What can I do,” the leader usually asks, “they just won’t do it.” Hmm. Sure, you certainly collaborate with and listen to workers. After all, they are the people who know most about their jobs, and there may be a good reason. However, the worker is not the only one who knows about his or her job.

Let’s get a better understanding of the relationship between the employee and employer. When the leader hires a worker, the leader is not buying loyalty. We’re not buying a motivated high performer. That develops from the behavior and leadership skills of the leader. All we are buying is the time of the worker.

Because of that, the only absolute right the leader has is to direct the worker in what to do with the time the leader has purchased. If the worker is being told to use spell check and doesn’t or refuses to do so, then the leader has a discipline issue.

The bottom line of discipline, of course, is if the person repeatedly doesn’t or won’t do a task, then they are not doing the job and need to be made available to the industry so that another worker, who will follow procedure, may be hired.

And, frankly, if a worker refuses to follow procedure and continues to be employed, then it is not the worker’s fault. Nope. In that case, it is the owner who should be fired.

Responsibility Required
The leader legislates the job that the graphics person is expected to accomplish. This is the same principle as the leader setting the work hours so the business can attract and retain customers. Those who are willing to do so are eligible to hold the job. Those that wish to change the work specifications are not. The leader even legislates what the worker should know and the skills they must possess.

Common is the leader who hires a person and tries to organize the job around what the worker wants to do. The CSR is really friendly, customers love her, and she’s been here a long time. But she’s not computer literate and doesn’t want to use the point of purchase or estimating system. Hmm.

The leader decides how jobs are to be priced and entered. The CSR administers the procedure. Should the leader change the procedure, such as introducing a computerized system, then the CSR must learn how to do it and the leader must provide the training.

A training program can be created for any job by listing all of the tasks needed to do that job. Then compare what the worker knows with what the worker needs to know in order to do those tasks. The difference between the two is the training program. Then the leader need only figure out how to best train the worker to do the tasks.

Sometimes the worker refuses to learn the tasks needed. If they do, then they are taking themselves out of consideration for the job, just as if they were unwilling to work the hours and do the tasks required of the job.

Again, you are not being mean, hard, or inconsiderate. You are protecting the jobs of everyone by requiring everyone to do their job. When everyone can do their job, the business is more likely to attract and retain customers, which results in providing the workers what they need: good wages and secure jobs.

The flip side would be to give in to what the worker wants. “I don’t want to deal with the computer, but I want the wage.” This adds waste and redundancy to the system and increases costs while decreasing the ability for the business to perform. Thus, it risks everyone’s wages and security.

Vacation Vexation
A third common area of leadership legislation revolves around vacations. Some give vacation time to workers and then resent it when they ask to take it. A loyal worker, many feel, is one who never takes a vacation. On the flip side, we often feel victimized by vacations because we’re the ones put out by them when we have to do real work while others take off. And what if a customer wants something?

When and if we actually take a vacation, we are preoccupied with what is going on at the shop, meaning there’s never a good time to take a vacation. If we’re busy, then we don’t feel like we can go because we need to help out. If we’re not busy, then we don’t feel like we should go because someone has to be there to keep everyone busy. As a result, we may take a long weekend, but usually we take a trip to the trade show and call that a vacation.

Now, there is an exception to this in that a small minority of owners take too many and inappropriate vacations. That’s rare, however, compared to those of us who haven’t taken real time off in the last five years. An additional underlying issue here is many don’t have the cash to take off for we have to be there every day to open mail and deposit checks.

Assuming these exceptions are not the case, then there’s really a simple solution to the vacation dilemma which is available to practically all of us. But it requires leadership legislation.

Workable Solution What is the solution? Close.
Close the week between Christmas and New Years and another week around Independence Day. For those gasping for air, I’ve never found that customers desert us for most of them are busy doing other things that time of year as well.

If you are in an unusual area such as a resort, then pick the two slowest weeks of the year and close. Now, most importantly, there is finally real vacation time for there is no need to worry about what is happening at the shop.

As a technical issue, this vacation shut down is treated as a holiday. If workers are working there, then they are paid for the shut down regardless of how long they have worked for you. That means don’t hire someone right before vacation. Additionally, when they leave they are not due accrued vacation pay for you have no accruals.

Now, there are two reasons leaders don’t close for vacation. One is rational, the other is less so. The lesser is the irrational fear of not being able to service customers. Pish posh!

You go to major customers the month before and talk to them about their needs. You’ll find they will print jobs now that they would have put off, so you commonly will have better sales before the shut down than you normally would. And then when you’re back, it’s a great reason for another sales touch to assure them you are refreshed and open for business.

The other reason is more rational and that is current workers may have already made plans. That’s simple enough as well.

Workers are required to stand down during the two vacation periods, during which time they receive their vacation pay.

Now, if they want to take additional unpaid time off and you are willing for them to do so, then let them take time off. However, do not allow them to work when others aren’t.

So we’re back to the leader legislating in order to make everyone’s lives better, especially the owner’s.

Let’s Summarize:

  • The leader legislates the hours in the day the workerworks, which is based on when customers expect us to be open to conduct business.
  • The leader legislates what the worker does when they are working and the way they do it.
  • The leader legislates the skills workers must possess and legislates when workers take time taken off for vacations.

This legislation is not being mean and ugly. It is all a part of developing an adult working environment and setting expectations for performance or minimum standards, if you will.

Next month we will discuss the way the leader assures the shop is a safe and happy place to work through legislation.

Tom Crouser is principal of Crouser & Associates, Inc., 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304/965-7100. You may reach Tom at And check out the unique business opportunity for small press printers offered by CPrint International at Follow Tom weekdays on Twitter at This article is available as a podcast at and from iTunes.