Monday, December 16, 2013

How Do I Get My People to Work as a Team? by Robert Spitz

Bob Spitz
Senior VP Business Dev
Management Success!

Recently this question came up while I was having lunch with a friend of mine who owns a nice shop but is struggling with some production problems.  We were talking about increasing production by improving how employees dealt with each other within the business.  One of the problems he was running into was a lack of communication between the front and the back in his shop.  “I don’t get it, it seems so obvious to me, and yet my guys seem to be on different pages sometimes.”

“Did you ever play any team sports?” I asked.  “What makes a good team good?  Is it simply a matter of recruiting superstars, or is there more too it than that?”  He had played team sports and was still a member of a softball team in a league in his town.  We started to examine what made great teams great and how that could relate to his current situation.

All the good teams he had ever been on had the following attributes in common:

1. They had a common goal.
2. Each person knew his position in the game.
3. Each person understood how his actions and performance affected everyone else.
4. Each person knew all the other players positions.
5. They drilled and practiced all the time.
6. They had a good manager who knew how to motivate.
7. They looked at key statistics in their game.
8. They reviewed good and bad plays.
9. They got along great.

We then took the list and compared these points with his shop.  And I asked him the following questions:

1. “Do you have a goal for the business?  Have you shared this vision with your people?” 

Just like sports teams, any group needs to have an agreed upon goal or objective to perform well.  In sports it is usually to win the division or something even higher like a state championship.  Then that big goal is broken down into smaller goals, then right down to individual players’ goals. I worked with a shop years ago up in Minnesota who had similar problems.  We got his people together and asked them what would they really like to have that would improve their working conditions?  They unanimously announced they wanted a better building. This answer surprised the owner.  He had heard grumbling about the lack of work space but never saw this as an opportunity to unite his people toward a common purpose.  We set about a plan to accomplish this goal and gave it a two-year target.  This was presented to the crew with the sales and production numbers it would take to attain this goal.  Monthly and weekly targets were set with smaller short team bonuses for the crew to earn and within a year they were in a new building! So I asked my friend again, “Do you have a goal for the business and have you broken that goal down into lesser goals with a shorter time interval where everyone involved could experience the joy of winning?”

2. “Does each of your people really understand their job, what’s expected of them and how to measure their own performance?” 

A team only performs as well as the individual players are proficient at their individual jobs. There has to be a way of measuring the production and performance of each position in a shop, a certain statistic to keep track of for that position.

3. “Do your people completely understand how their actions and how their performance affects the performance of the others in the group and the overall performance of the shop?” 

Nobody in a group lives on an island.  Each member has to understand how their actions and performance effects the actions and performance of the other members in the group.

4.  “Do your people completely understand everyone else’s job and what it is they do and how that affects them?”

When individuals in a group do not have a good understanding of the jobs others around them perform it greatly decreases that group’s ability to perform at peak levels. Complete job descriptions for every position in the business must be available and completely understood by each person for their own position. 

5. “Do you take the time to train your people in their positions and drill people on the shop’s procedures?” 

A business that does not invest resources toward training is killing itself.  A shop has got to have a system and schedule for on-going training of each member of the group.  A shop also needs to hold training drills on the various administrative procedures in the shop.

6. “How do you compare with the good managers you have played under in those sports teams? Are you lacking any skills or knowledge to be a competent leader of your people?”

The owner of a business has many hats to wear but the primary ones are planning and the execution of plans.  This is easy to say but takes a very exact skill set to accomplish.  Top professional sports figures all have coaches.  An owner of a business would be wise to hire a competent business coach. 

7. “Like sports, a business must have Key Performance Indicators to gauge its effectiveness and progress toward a stated goal.  What stats or KPI’s are you managing with?” 

Understanding the sales-production-profit pipeline of a business and what the key statistics are to measure the success of an executive’s decisions and actions is vital to the achievement of the goals.

8. “It is a smart operator who videos their people in action and then review their performance with them. This gives management and staff a chance to reinforce positive actions and correct mistakes before incorrect actions become bad habits.” 

All pro sports players use video to enhance performance and it is something that should be done in the workplace.

9. “You had teams you were on where everyone got along great. That was because they were winning teams”. 

Keeping people winning on their jobs is an important part of managing and leadership.  Knowing how to set up bonus plans and quickly handling upsets with employees is all part of knowing how to win the game.

My friend sat back and looked at me and said, “I never looked at my business this way.  There is a lot of room for improvement, but now I have a direction to go in.” 

We hammered out a step-by-step plan to start implementing the changes that needed to be made to create a truly winning team, and I am happy to report the business now operates at a much higher level of sales and production and yes, they are getting along great!

If you would like to improve the performance of your business, give us a call, we would be happy to give you a free business analysis and get you pointed in the right direction.

Wishing you nothing but success!

Management Success!