Make sure your case study is relevant

For many years, I used the same case study in a seminar to teach managers how to coach their employees to improve performance. Fortunately, it resonates with participants in the past, so I had no idea that it should be revised.

Recently, I had a rude awakening when the class (composed of participants with similar roles and responsibilities as previous participants) pointed out that the case study required improvement to be meaningful to them.

Here are the changes they requested:

First Current language: The employee in question is identified by name but not by name.

Recommended revision: Include the employee’s title so that participants have a clear idea of ​​their role and responsibilities.

2nd Current language: The employee’s affected employees are identified by name.

Recommended revision: Identify those affected by the employee’s behavior as “your team members and members” to reinforce the fact that his behavior also affects customers. (Note: Participants come from credit unions whose “customers” are actually members of the credit union.)

Third Current language: The employee’s suggested solution for checking to see if he is at work on time is for him to walk past the manager’s office on his way to his desk.

Recommended revision: Replace this suggested solution with a meeting to review his schedule. Managers are often not at their desk and the timesheet will provide adequate confirmation of the employee’s timeliness (or lack thereof).

4th Current language: The manager says “I also want us to meet in two weeks to discuss how things are going.”

Recommended revision: Let the manager use a more directive approach where he says “Let’s meet in two weeks to discuss how things are going.”

The case study was intended to be as close as possible to the participants’ work reality. These recommended changes may seem minor, but they have a significant effect on the case study as a learning tool:

  • Giving the employee a title helps participants place him in the context of credit union activities and services.

  • Knowing the employee’s title and role helps participants recognize that employee behavior has a negative impact on everyone on his team as well as on credit union members.

  • Using the timesheet to check the employee’s timeliness is a more objective and reliable solution that participants would be more likely to spend with their own employees.

  • Ensuring that the follow-up meeting is set as a clear expectation and directive rather than a vague proposal supports participants’ understanding that a leader has ultimate control over the solution of work performance issues.

I am so glad that the participants were willing to point out the flaws in the case study and collaborate with me to identify more appropriate languages.

This is an annual seminar so I can’t wait until next year to see how closely the case study is in line with the leadership reality of the participants. And if it needs more tweaking, so be it.