Ask the Expert

By: Glenda Lofton, Ph.D

Jun 30, 2020

For several years prior to beginning Lofton Staffing Services, Tommy Lofton was a national consultant for business and industry.  Primarily a troubleshooter, he was the “expert” who was called in when companies were experiencing low productivity.  Typically he would make an onsite visit of several days, then come home and write a report on his findings, which included a list of recommendations for improvement.  He would usually receive a letter back from the company praising him for his wisdom and insight.  His recommendations were always right on target!                

As his wife, like the companies he served, I was amazed at his expertise.  One day, as he was packing for another trip, I asked him how he did it.  “Well,” he said, “before I go, I know some of the things I’ll find.  For example, I know the restrooms and the break areas will be dirty.” “The restrooms and break areas will be dirty?” I interrupted.  “How do you know that?”  “Because it all goes together,” he said. “Low productivity, low employee morale, dirty restrooms, dirty break areas and nobody cares.”                

“But how do you know what to do to change that?” I asked.  “When I get to the company,” he replied, “I’ll interview people at all levels. ‘What do you think are the problems?’ I’ll ask, ‘and what needs to be done to correct them?’  Someone in the company always knows what needs to be done.  So I write up what they tell me and send it back.”  And then, he added what I later learned in my own work improving schools, “The real experts are the people who do the job!”  

Unfortunately many businesses and schools like the ones Tommy and I worked with are not organized in ways that permit the people who actually do the job to have continuous opportunities to work together, to problem solve,  to analyze what works and why, and to learn with and from each other. This is despite the fact that decades of research characterize effective businesses and schools as learning organizations where individuals, guided by common knowledge and beliefs, work together to achieve common goals.  

In the book On Common Ground: The Power of Professional Learning Communities (Dufour, Eaker, Dufour, 2005), the authors review the benefits of working together, but emphasize that teamwork and good working relationships are not enough. Discussing and working together can “feel good” but go nowhere. It is only when “joint talk” is focused on what works and why, and “joint work” is focused on results rather than intentions that the payoff is seen in the form of higher quality solutions to problems, increased confidence and morale, and remarkable gains in productivity.  

There are two kinds of organizations—those that are learning and improving, and those that are declining. Maintaining the status quo is not an option. Learning organizations provide organized opportunities for people to learn from the experts, the people who do the job, but they also look for evidence that what they are doing is working and continually think about and explore new and better ways of doing things.  

I love the story of the expert farmer whose corn always took Blue Ribbons at the state fair. Each year after the fair he would call in his neighbors and talk to them about what he had learned and the results. When someone asked why he would share what he knew with his competitors, he responded, “If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”  Cross-pollination works on the farm and in the workplace. The people you work with today – your coworkers, your clients, and even your competitors – know something you need to know. Learn from them formally and informally and capitalize on the expertise you all possess!


About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton Staffing can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today


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We Believe...

Relationships are built…one on one.
Know your people - match interest and talents to the tasks.
Don’t manage by numbers. (They just show if we’re on track.) People do the work.
People should feel better when they leave than when they came – and in turn we feel better.
When we help others, we help ourselves.
Great expectations: fair pay, fair treatment, teach me.
Have fun…and be better.
Work at having fun (51% of the time.) If you don’t feel it, fake it. Having fun is not slacking off. Work is more natural than play.