Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Real Team-Building

How many times have you mentioned "team-building exercise" and seen eyes rolling and people heading for the door? That many? Without even knowing you I bet I can tell you why. It's because your exercises have nothing to do with any kind of relationship to your staff's jobs. A 250 pound man falling backwards for a 125 pound woman to catch is not going to help them at work.

When developing a program ask yourself what your real need is. Is it to actually build teamwork? Is it simply to improve morale? Is it to increase communication? Depending on your answer, the way you go about developing is going to be quite different.

If you're going to team-build, it has to be more than just a fun activity. It has to be something that will apply back at the workplace. Referencing a team-building book (there are tons of them out there) is great, but you still have to tweak it to your needs. Remember to be sure that you work in your organizations mission and values. This is the perfect opportunity to do so without the "here it comes again" attitudes. Team-building done correctly will leave them feeling more apart of the organization.

If your goal is to improve morale, by all means, go out and do something fun. Take everyone to a ballgame or go play laser-tag (very fun). Do something totally different.

If you're trying to increase communication, get that team-building book out. You'll find a lot of ideas in there where staff have to work together in order to get something accomplished, things where they have to talk with one another in order to get the job done. They'll get a sense of camaraderie and a better understanding of each other and how they think.

The whole idea with these three programs is to engage or reengage your staff. Nancy Mann Jackson summed it up best in a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine - "An engaged employee will stop and pick up a piece of trash in the hallway, a disengaged employee will walk by the piece of trash and leave it, and an actively disengaged employee will throw the trash on the floor." Which employee do you want?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You're Not Alone

If you could do everything as a manager, you'd be indispensable and probably make a lot more money. But guess what? You can't do everything. You're not alone. You didn't get to where you are by yourself.

For those of you who sit on that high horse, let me try to illustrate this to you. Most people think of the Blue Angels as a team of six shiny blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets and their pilots. They fly from air show to air show and thrill millions of people every year with their precision aerial moves. Well, that's only the tip of the iceberg. It takes a whole lot of people behind the scenes to make sure that those birds can fly.

In over 60 years, the "Blues" have never cancelled a show for maintenance reasons. Every person on the Blue Angels is dedicated to making sure that everything falls into place and everyone is safe. This is a true team. The pilots would not be up in the sky thrilling us all if they didn't have the support of the ground crew and support staff.

Teamwork isn't a part-time activity. Each member is representing the rest of the team at all times. That includes the team members at the "top". Managers and supervisors have to be just as much a part of the team as anyone else. Without that, you really don't have a team. You have a bunch of people working for the good of the boss.

Be apart of the team and develop your staff. This is how you accomplish things that others can't. Be upfront and of course, lead by example. You're the one molding the team. If you're a slouch, your team members will become slouches.

To succeed in management, you have to be able to accept responsibility and not hide behind desks. You don't lose the team player role when you move into that office. You become a motivating part of it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning to Take Command

In Captain Michael Abrashoff's book, It's Your Ship, he discusses how taking command of USS Benfold required a change in his own leadership model. He found that time and age changes many things. In order to tackle these challenges, he researched exit surveys and interviews and found that the top reason people leave jobs was because of "not being treated with respect or dignity; the second was being prevented from making an impact on the organization; third, not being listened to; and fourth, not being rewarded with more responsibility". Low pay was way down in the fifth position.

In leadership or staff training, you really must look at your demographics in order to be effective. Organizations have very diversified age ranges these days, from Baby-Boomers to the Gen-Y'ers. These two groups, and all in between, have very different mindsets. Like it or not, you may have to adjust your own ways in order to be more effective. The old "my way or the highway" type of leading just isn't going to fly with the younger folks.

A good way to demonstrate the differences in the generations is to look at the way they compare work and life.
  • Baby Boomers - view themselves and their career as one and the same
  • Gen X - balance work and life; like flexible working hours and job sharing
  • Gen Y - express themselves rather than define themselves through work
In the Gen X and Y'ers, we've lost the "company man" attitude and gained a more entrepreneurial, flexibility attitude. In order to create better unity, treat everyone, from your newest member to your most seasoned employee, as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best. And of course, keep continuing training a priority so staff don't don't get stagnate in their jobs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Training and Customer Retention

Good customer service doesn't necessarily come natural to some people. They need to have training and follow-up. Most organizations have some sort of customer service training but it's too often not enough. One basic class during orientation doesn't cut it. New staff are commonly overwhelmed with information already. Give them a little bit of time to get acquainted with their job and to see just how and where they fit in. They'll be able to adapt to their role in customer service a lot easier.

Don't leave training with the one class. Do follow-up in-service's, seminars, etc. Keep customer service at the forefront of your staff's minds. You don't need to (and don't want to) cram it down their throats. Just make sure that they at least know the basics, can use the basics, and be able to form some type of relationship with their customers. Customers should be treated like guests in their own house. Relationships are a key influence to holding on to customers, especially in service-oriented industries.

There are five basic standards for treating guests that you should be reviewing with staff:
  • welcome them using their name,
  • introduce yourself,
  • take care of their needs,
  • thank them, and
  • invite them back.

Good customer service is that easy. You can include these standards in your training in many ways - video's, role-play, "how would you" questions, "pick the best way" scenarios, etc.

Markets, for any organization, are constantly changing so "people skills" become extremely important. Reminders in staff meetings or pre-operation meetings will go a long way. Focusing on this key area will not only give you a good ROI on training, but also show staff how important it actually is and where your priorities stand.