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Was Michelangelo trained?

Looking at overly trained employees

There is an old story told about working with people.  It starts with Michelangelo, the artist perhaps best known for his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The story claims Michelangelo was standing in the chapel, along with several other people - several of which were those who had commissioned (hired) him to paint the ceiling.

Maybe they did not know of his previous works.  Then again, maybe they knew what they wanted.  Whatever the circumstances, the story tells they are discussing what to do with the ceiling.  Reportedly, without asking Michelangelo, one person asks another, "What do you think the ceiling should look like?"

"Beige would be nice", was the response.

In the Houston airport, terminal C, there is a food court where you have a choice of five or six places to eat. The one food vendor that draws your attention one afternoon is Harlon's Bar-B-Que.  The attraction is not the neon signs, the smell of the food, or even the way they price their meals. The attraction is Rick.

Everyone knows his name because he makes a point to say it several times.  With a slow southern draw, Rick has a cadence to his appeal.  "Come on down the left hand side.  We've got a meal for you.  We've got beef, pork and even fat free turkey.  You can get chicken anywhere you go.  Even down in Mexico.  If you are watching your figure like me, get the turkey.  It is fat free!"

Every person walking by is addressed with, “Hello young lady”, or “Hello young man.” One older woman puts a dollar in the tip bucket.  "This is for you Rick.  Anyone who calls me young lady deserves it."

"Thank you ma'am.  You are a young lady, for you are as young as you feel." Why is Rick like Michelangelo?  Rick's "ceiling" is not beige.  Whether he prevailed with his ideas, or someone said, "Just go ahead and say what you feel", there is now a masterpiece for all on concourse C to enjoy.

Rick is not working in one of the other food court businesses giving the customer standing in line the usual, "Can I help you?"  The questions of curiosity are to ask what would Rick do in one of these other restaurants?  It is also to ask how Rick got to this point.  When his boss saw this talent, did he encourage Rick to be creative?  Does the boss realize the talent he has on his hands?  Does he reward Rick for being creative?

If the time allowed, we could stop and visit with both Rick and his boss to see how this situation developed.  While the answers would be interesting, the more important question is to ask if you have a Michelangelo or Rick working for you. Have you looked to find out?  Or, more importantly have you instead, trained your employees?

Experience has shown that you have four choices in dealing with your potential artists.  The first is to do nothing. Some people will provide just enough information to get a person on the front line because they are desperate.  These same experiences demonstrate when a business puts itself in this mode, it easily becomes a dangerous and self repeating circle.  These businesses are fairly obvious to their customers.  Most of the artists have moved away from this situation because it is too chaotic.

The second choice is when a business decides to train an employee.  This business is also fairly obvious.  This is where the employees have been told what to do.  They say, "Can I help you? Is that all?", and a number of other canned responses.

The employees make no decisions.  They refer to a manager, or a manual, and will do no more than what they are told.  You walk into this business and the customer has to ask the employee to ring up a sale.  The employee will stop their work to do so, but otherwise will continue to stock the shelves because that is what they have been told to do.

A business that makes a point to provide training becomes the headquarters for, "That's not my job", or "Nobody told me to do that".

The third choice is to educate an employee.  Create this type of situation and you are providing the fertile ground for developing a Rick or Michelangelo.  Educated employees don't see themselves as employees; they are members of a team.

They understand they are not selling products and services. They know they provide the means for their customers to increase their self-esteem, experience satisfaction and pleasure.

There is a fine line to be crossed in going from education to developing a Rick or Michelangelo.  It will occur as the owner or manager sees a talent or skill in a person and provides the encouragement and opportunity for this budding artist.  It also requires the owner or manager to be receptive to new ideas and techniques.

At the same time, to continue to be profit focused, the owner or manager must make sure the business will be the beneficiary of these skills.  There have been occasions where the budding artist has gotten so lost in their talents and efforts that there has been little to no productive work achieved.

This fourth level is very hard to achieve and maintain.  It requires the continual efforts of both the artist and the owner for it to be successful.  But then, if it were that easy, we would have versions of the Sistine chapel everywhere.  And as Rick says, "You can get chicken anywhere you go”.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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