Do your people get regular maintenance? Lessons from a sewing machine breakdown.

by | Jun 18, 2024

When I’m not running The Shuler Group, in my spare time I put my creative energies toward quilting and painting.  However, I didn’t quilt for months because my sewing machine was acting wonky.  I don’t necessarily use it all the time, but when I have a quilting project, the machine gets a lot of work.

I bought this particular machine back in 1998, and with my purchase, I received three years of free machine maintenance: cleaning, oiling, and optimizing performance.  I took the shop up on their offer, and took it in regularly.

After the three years were up, did I continue taking it in for regular maintenance?


I’m sure you see where this is going… Since I didn’t use the machine all the time (it might have even lain dormant for a couple of years), it wasn’t in my face that its performance was gradually deteriorating.  So, back in December of 2022, it was so bad that it struggled to sew even a basic straight seam.  I had to stop using it completely until I took it to get it maintenized.

I expected it to perform well forever, but I didn’t do anything to help it be successful.  My thinking was that maintenance was an expense, not an investment.

I needed to shift that thinking.

Now let’s turn to organizational staff development.  We’ve had two new clients bring us in recently for different reasons: 1) because there were serious breakdowns in culture and 2) because their staff needed to up their game.

In the first example, the organization had such serious incidents that the CEO was forced to bring in trainers to help with culture and communication.

In the second example, the president of the company was looking at what was needed for the organization to be successful long-term, and he understood that he needed to develop his people – not just in a one-time effort, but consistent maintenance.

There’s a reason it’s called human resources… because the humans working in your organization are your greatest resource.  What can you do to help them develop and grow? What do they need to be successful (which, in turn, will make your organization  more successful)?

We understand that automobiles need regular oil changes, and we even have little stickers (or an annoying “service required” warning) to keep that need top of mind.

Unfortunately, people in companies don’t come with stickers or warning lights to remind leaders to maintain them.

How do you create your own People Maintenance Program?

  • Have a staff development plan, with time and budget allocations.  The “time” and “budget” elements are key factors. You can say that developing your people is important, but if you don’t have a budget or allow them the time for programs, training, or coaching, you’re just paying lip service to a concept.
  • Involve people in designing their own program. Have regular conversations and create the plan together.
  • As part of the above, understand there is no one-size-fits-all professional or personal development program. One person may think that public speaking classes or coaching is what they need, and another may want to take improv classes to improve their verbal communication.
  • Shift your mindset that staff development is an investment, not an expense.  Once you do that, you’ll see tremendous benefits, all the way from an increase in individual performance to organization-wide culture improvement.
  • Along with creating a specific plan, make professional development part of your organization’s strategic plan and multi-phased growth plan.

Your people are your greatest resource.  The more successful you help them to be, the more successful your organization will be.


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