I took a bit of stick this week for writing a post suggesting that we all use the current situation as an opportunity to do something positive - to create something - to do something that you’ve been talking about doing, but have never quite got round to.
I suggested that one of these things might be to get started down the road to systemising your business, and offered help and support, with a link to an offer we have on at the minute for our online programme.
Some people felt I was being opportunistic. Even my own team were uncomfortable with my message, concerned that it would be seen as taking advantage of a bad situation.
But here’s the thing…
I know that a lot of businesses will suffer in the coming weeks and months because they don’t have systems in place, because they never saw them as important, because they didn’t see them as a good investment of time, money or energy.
Many will be regretting the fact that they didn’t work out the one right way to do every task in their business, that they didn’t record that one right way, and that they don’t have an effective training system that ensures their team follow it.
Many will be completely lost when the one person in their team who performs key activities has to self isolate, or becomes ill - the one person that they ‘simply can’t do without’ - because they never got them to record what they do in a way that others could pick up easily and run with.
Many will have recognised that certain tasks could be automated but not taken the actions necessary.
Systems are not a nice to have - they are business critical, and every business looking to come out of this current crisis stronger and fitter, needs to look to their foundations.
I’m sick of business owners working way too hard, simply because they haven’t trained their team effectively and operate with ‘chinese-whispers training’ instead.
I’m sick of seeing businesses being held to ransom by unscrupulous employees who’ve taken advantage of the fact that the business doesn’t have a performance management system. (A good friend of mine is going through hell right now because they didn’t act on my advice over a year ago!)
I’m sick of good people becoming disengaged and feeling unfulfilled because their business owner is a control freak and won’t give them the information they need to take ownership of their role.
So yes, I’m being opportunistic, if that means grabbing the chance to wake business owners up to the necessity of systems for scale and growth.
I make no apology for encouraging entrepreneurs to make purposeful use of this downturn in business.
And while I may attract criticism, I hope that the smart proactive businesses who are following the likes of Daniel Priestley’s advice to Reset and Reinvent, will take the opportunity to systemise their business, to make it leaner, stronger, healthier and more efficient, and come out of this crisis with a solid base for new and sustainable growth.
Good luck to all of you, and if you want my help, you know where I am.
When I start working with a new client I always spend some time talking to each of their team members individually to discover:
This information provides a great benchmark from which to start and judge ongoing progress. It often reveals a stark perception gap too between how the owner sees things and the team members’ view.
It’s a great exercise for a business to do. The thing I love most about it is that you get to talk to both the old-timers, people who have been around a few years and also the newbies – team members who’ve been around less than six months.
Quite often, you’ll hear people say,
‘Oh, you won’t get anything useful from new people, they’ve not been here long enough to know how things work’.
But that’s actually the point – you get their fresh view on what has become the wallpaper to everybody else. You know, when you walk into a new house sometimes and you’ve got a wall that you need to sort out because it looks hideous and then you find you’ve been living in the house two years and that wall still looks exactly as hideous but you’ve just stopped seeing it? New people spot things that the longer serving team members no longer see, or recognise as an issue. Naivety is sometimes a blessing.
So you can learn a lot about a business from talking to those who work there. But how often do we do it?
“Employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged.” - Gallup Research
As a business owner whether you employ 5 people or 50, you only have a certain amount of time to spend with your team.
So what better way to make the most of that time than by asking your team members,
'If there was just one thing you’d want from me as a manager, what would it be?'
And then of course back that up with action. It’s wonderful turning round at review time and asking your team member,
‘How am I doing in delivering what I said?’
It’s a simple but really effective form of 360 degree feedback and improves that two-way communication.
It can be tempting too to give our time to our superstars or working and working on turning round an underperfomer. But sometimes this can be at the expense of your loyal, solid workers. An analogy that’s stuck with me is that in general, teams are split as follows:
The Choir are the people in your team who are the real superstars, the people who you love having around you – your high flyers. The people that you give the big jobs to, to get them sorted.
The Crypt are the people who are under-performing. They are sometimes the rotten apples in your barrel, the people who are either constantly moaning or constantly asking the same questions over and over again, or simply very high-maintenance. (This isn’t always there fault.)
The Congregation then sit in between and are very often forgotten because they are steady, reliable and consistent. They don’t ask for anything, they are possibly never going to be your high flyers or you may just not notice their potential. But they are absolutely solid as a rock. You know that they will come in, they'll do a really good job and then they’ll go home. No trouble, just really consistent, dependable people.
So, what percentage of your time do you spend on your superstars, your under-performers and your steady reliable team members?
Perhaps your choir, your superstars don’t need too much of your attention because by definition they are self-starting, high-achievers. Your time is spent with them on public praise and in high energy gatherings, on setting new challenges and keeping them stretched and fulfilled. After all, you want to keep them! (But be careful that you don’t form a ‘club’ from which others feel excluded.)
What about the crypt? People in here may just need to be trained and nurtured to progress to the congregation or even the choir. But how much time do you spend on someone who you know is just not the right fit but you dread having that conversation with and so put it off? What about the person who does an okay job but who is incredibly needy of reassurance, of constant affirmation who picks on any little thing, who just sucks the life out of you on a daily basis? How much time do you spend and how long do you persevere?
And then how much time does that leave to spend on people who simply do their very best every day, the congregation? They may not be superstars in the recognised sense of the word, they may never achieve greater wealth or status than they have already, but they go about their work cheerfully every day, and they do it consistently well. They are the sort of people who you would want beside you in the trenches (do people still say that these days?); the sort of people who are calm and measured in a crisis; who have had their share of hard knocks, but who just keep bouncing back; the sort of people you can rely on to be…well, reliable!
And often it’s these people who we just take for granted. They are low maintenance, they don’t ask for anything so we often just leave them to it. And maybe we’re missing a trick here, for one we want to keep them and who knows, they could progress to the choir given a chance.
Do two things:
1. Organise some one-to-ones with your team. Find out what one thing you could do to make their job easier, and help them to serve your customers better. Let them talk, and listen to them.
And if you feel that you wouldn’t get straight answers then bring in an outsider, bring in a friend, (bring me in:) to talk to your team and get this information because what I’m picking up with my clients teams’ is absolute gold dust.
It’s the sort of stuff that doesn’t readily come out; feedback about where people see themselves; feedback about who’s sitting next to who and how that’s affecting their work; feedback about how poor communication is. Little stuff maybe, but it’s always the little stuff, isn’t it?
2. Think about the individuals in your team and how much time you spend with each; who is hogging your attention?
Thanks for reading
Job turnover in an organisation with positive company culture is around 14%, compared to turnover in low company cultures at almost 50%
In last week’s blog I wrote about digging deep to find your true core values. Having defined them, it’s important to live them consistently, because from these behaviours will stem the culture of your business.
will be what your team focus on, will become the things that are important to them too, and ultimately will become the culture of your team.
So if you’re trying to improve your culture you might want to start with where you are now. ( Like if you were trying to lose weight you’d start by weighing or measuring yourself.) You probably have a gut feel for the atmosphere round the place but what can you really measure? Here’s a selection of
Choose which are appropriate for your business, then look back over the past year and measure them. There are many signs of poor culture e.g cliques, clock watching, poor communication, stress or lethargy, sloppy work but ultimately the effects of these will manifest in the key indicators above. (If you graph each, every quarter you can use it to monitor progress, just as you do your Key Business Performance Indicators.)
Establishing a positive culture
So what can you do to change a poor culture if you have one, or to create a positive culture if you’re just starting to build your team?
Once you’ve established your starting point, as a manager or business owner, the first place you need to look is in the mirror. Look at the way you behave, what you follow up on, what you praise, how you communicate with individuals, what you show the team is important to you, every, single, day.
If you say that keeping commitments is important to you, do you always turn up to every meeting on time?
If you say you’re going to have a one to one with a team member, do you ever cancel it because you’re just too busy, or something more important has come up.
If you say that feedback is important for personal growth, do you listen to, and reflect on feedback from your team?
Shadow of the leader
Whether we like it or not, as managers we cast a shadow over the people in our team, and just like a child will mimic their parents, our team will mimic our behaviours and actions, follow our cues, develop our traits.
It’s important that you understand the power of your shadow, and model the behaviours that you want to see in your team, because your example will be followed
Your values come first, your team culture will follow.
Draw a picture of yourself - it doesn’t have to be a great piece of art - a stickman or a rough outline will do. Then on the right of your picture, write down all of the things that represent you on a good day.
- What are you like?
- How do you act?
- What do you say? Or not say?
- How are you with the team?
- What’s your energy like?
Then, on the left of your picture, write down all of the things that represent you on a bad day.
- What are you like?
- How do you act?
- What do you say? Or not say?
- How are you with the team?
- What’s your energy like?
Spend at least 15 minutes reflecting on the shadow you cast over the team.
Do one thing: develop at least one strategy for eliminating, or at least minimising your ‘bad’ days.
(And if you want to monitor improvement then choose past and future culture indicators to chart as outlined above.)
Thanks for reading.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)