In the book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies they talk about a study conducted in a manufacturing plant to improve employee productivity. One of the managers theorized that by improving the lighting conditions productivity would go up because they would be creating a more positive environment for the workers. Well after turning up the lights productivity did increase. So he said, well if the lighting was the cause, if we turn down the lights productivity will return to normal. So they turned the lights back down and productivity still went up! So what happened???
The people who conducted the study discovered that what management does to improve morale makes little difference as long as your team members feel that someone cares about them.
I’ve lauded Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s research in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently several times and his research seems to correlate directly with the findings in In Search of Excellence. For that reason Buckingham and Coffman’s 12 questions that “measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees”, include:
- Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
- Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
With those pearls of wisdom in mind, my first change at my new business was to implement a mandatory weekly team meeting. The team meeting is presented as a great way for me to educate the whole team on marketing programs, price changes, and other changes while providing everyone an opportunity to voice what changes can be made to improve issues. Generally the issues that need to be addressed are brought up by me based on problems we encounter during the week or through researching issues from analyzing our database. We then brainstorm on how to improve them.
We’ve had 3 so far and I can’t imagine implementing changes without them. How else can you possibly get the whole team on the same page??? I’m still in the process of fine-tuning our process, however right now it’s composed of 4 pieces:
- Review of last meeting
- Service/Delivery Issues
- Marketing/Sales Projects
- Team Building Exercise
An added benefit that I didn’t expect from the team meeting is that it has actually encouraged competition between our service technicians. Our team includes 4 technicians including 1 who is extremely thorough, at the cost of expedience and another technician who is very fast, but sometimes sacrifices quality. They routinely challenge each other when we talk about the number of callbacks (i.e. service calls where we have to go back to a customer for the second time because the issue wasn’t fixed the first time) that are acceptable or the length of time it should take for routine service. You’ll never hear me suggest that healthy competition isn’t positive. 🙂
After being onsite for about 3 weeks and making lots of small changes designed to help improve operations, I’ve made it very clear that if everyone on our team is succeeding, I’m succeeding. My title is even “Team Leader” instead of General Manager, VP of Operations, CEO or whatever other titles come up with these days. For the first time in quite a while, the entire team realizes that someone not only cares about how well they do each day, but is willing to work very hard to make sure they are able to do their best.
The result of all of this “touchy-feely” teamwork building stuff and a new focus on our vision to be the absolute best in our market by consistently exceeding our customers’ expectations??? How about the highest household sales for the month of April in the entire 60 year history of the business? That also indicates one of the top 6 grossing months in the entire company history for household sales. Alright, so 3 weeks on the job and it may be a bit premature to assume the team building exercises and the great sales performance are directly related.
Over the next few weeks as we start NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) training, Mission Statement and Culture Statement reviews, and performance based bonuses, we’ll see if sales and profits still increase by investing more time in the team.
To your success, Bryan