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Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Indoctrination

Navy seals What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 4 of a series… So here we are in part 4 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team.  The original posts can be found here starting with hiring… We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders) since we can train almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   Qualities are the things that make our best people “clone worthy”. We’ve also talked about using the “ketchup question” when hiring for customer service, and the need to determine the default customer service level of your applicant. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1part 2, and part 3. So… we’ve interviewed our applicant by making them comfortable, and getting to know them through an in depth conversation, where we asked questions to find the behaviors that describe the Leadership qualities we are hiring for. And, we’ve decided to hire the person siting in front of us. Now what?  Well… In order to build a truly great team, we cannot allow our great new hire to simply adapt to the team as it stands.  We will simply end up with yet another mediocre team member. First step: Before I leave the room I will spend another 45 to 60 minutes with my new hire.  Yup… another hour to make sure that I get them off on the right foot invested now will pay off in more ways than you will believe. Remember, great does not happen by accident.  We are not satisfied with the standards of behavior, or the culture of our current team (if you are, good for you!  Keep up the great work!), and it is going to take hard work and tough decisions in order to affect the change that needs to happen.  You can do this, and you need to start today… right here and right now. You will invest the time and energy to get this new hire fired up.  You need them to come onto your team with a full understanding of the new standards you will be holding the team to.  You need to indoctrinate them with your excitement about what the team is going to be like, how excited you are to have them on your team, the important role they will play in achieving the goals of the team, and how interested you are in helping them achieve their goals (you just got done talking to them for an hour… you better be able to talk in depth about their goals!). Some people will state that they don’t like the word indoctrinate… and that’s OK.  You don’t have to use that word if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  And… Think of the best, strongest, and highest performing teams you can.  Perhaps the Navy Seals come to mind?  I grew up in the town that borders West Point… that comes to my mind (and where I hope our 17 year old will go)…  Now, do those teams welcome and train their newest team members?  Is there coffee, nice music playing in the background while we talk about how we like our team members to treat each other with the same respect you would like to be shown?   Not so much… What kind of process is it? I’ll give you a hint… it’s indoctrination.  Before anyone is brought onto the team they are told that it will be a difficult job, that it will be hard work, that you’re your teammates will be committed to excellence, and that you will be expected to uphold the highest standards of behavior and performance. I don’t believe that there is any way to maintain that level of performance without some form of indoctrination.  You don’t have to agree, and has what you’ve been doing gotten you a great team?  Is there a reason you can’t have a team that functions at an incredibly high level?  This process of hiring for qualities and indoctrinating every one of my new hires worked wonderfully for me, and that’s why I’m suggesting you take a chance and go for great! Whatever you choose to call it, if you want to achieve and maintain a very high level of performance, you will have to instill your new hire with the values and beliefs of your team.  Make sure they understand how much you value having them on the team, and that you are looking forward to them using their experience and knowledge to help the team improve everything it does. This is not something that you can delegate, nor can it be left to someone who does not even work on your team.  You, and only you (because you are the team Leader) can instill your new hires with your excitement about the future of the team, your passion for the success of the team, the rewards that come from achieving the goals of the team, and what the future can/will hold for your new hire.  If you feel you have found a great addition to the team, make sure they really understand how excited you are about having them on the team, and how they will be a key player in helping the team achieve it’s goals. If you do this right, your new hire will come in for his or her first day of work with more motivation that anyone currently on your team.  And as long as you continue to stay involved in their work and development, you can help them maintain that level of engagement. I believe that team member engagement is all about our relationship with the person to whom we report.  So you are starting to build that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to hire them! Since we are transparent, we make sure our new hire understands that we are a team in transition. That means they might work with team members who are not upholding the expectations we just discussed, or acting in a manor consistent with the culture we described, and that does not mean it is OK for our new hire to do anything other than meet or exceed those expectations. We will explain that we are working on changing/improving the culture of the team, that we have some team members who may not be a good fit on this team, and that we are working hard to change their behavior of get then off the team. It is imperative that we are honest and transparent from our very first encounter with each and every great new hire.  We may not have always been as honest and transparent as we should have been in the past, and the only way to develop a truly great team is by making a commitment to honestly and transparency moving forward. I wrote a post about how and why I indoctrinate (you can read it here) and your indoctrination process should be personal, and fit your workplace.  I honed this process hiring and developing great teams for Whole Foods Market… a fast paced retail environment where standards are high and so are customer expectations.  You should indoctrinate your new hires with your ideals, your team’s values, and your hopes for their future.  Tell them everything you would want to hear if you had made it onto a team that had very high standards, and happy to have you join them. That’s probably long enough for today (too long by many standards), and I feel that too often posts and articles are too short to effectively help us really understand how to achieve the results talked about in the post.  So… I write until I feel I’ve said enough to actually help you.  I know this will mean some people won’t read them, and that’s OK. In part 5 we’ll talk about the next steps in building a great team, like the next steps in our new hire’s work life, moving those who are holding the team back off the team, and how to change the culture of our team.

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Do You Remember What It Was Like To Be New?

Train track making connections

We were all new at some point. We can be new in our job… perhaps getting a promotion or hired in at a level that is new to us, as well as simply working in a new environment. Both of these bring challenges, and as Leaders our actions can have a major impact on the kind of relationships our new hires develop at work, as well as how they feel about us and their new job… which in turn determines their level of engagement.

What I’m talking about goes much deeper than onboarding… our happiness, satisfaction, and level of engagement at work is directly connected to our relationship with the person to whom we report.

Different organizations have different onboarding procedures, which can certainly enable our new hires to want to be helpful, and feel as if they are welcome and part of the team. And it’s you; their team Leader, working with them daily (or as often as you possibly can) that really allows them to help the team achieve its goals.

And if we stay in the same organization for a while, we can easily forget what it’s like to be new. It’s all too easy to become a bit arrogant about what people should know, what basic expectations should be understood and automatically met, what rules and roles are universal as opposed to unique to our organization, and what behavior and communications styles are expected and acceptable.

If we as Leaders fail to remember what it was like to be new the damage can be irreparable.

We can easily alienate our new hires by failing to show empathy. Starting a new job can be stressful enough without out boss expecting us to know and understand all of the in’s and out’s of our new workplace in the first few days/weeks.

We can make it easy for them to feel overwhelmed, which will certainly impact the quality of their work, as well as their level of commitment to the team goals.

Our demands and expectations can encourage them to think that perhaps this was a mistake… maybe they should not have accepted our offer? This is tough to fix once the damage is done.

Or minimally, we can fail to make this transition period as short and as pleasant as it can be.

So how can we remember what it was like to be new?

And in what ways can we help our new hires adapt to their new role and new environment?

To remember what it’s like to be new we can:

Spend some time with kids. Kids are constantly learning and exploring the world, and spending time watching and interacting with them can help keep us grounded. Kids constantly remind us of what it’s like to be new at something.

If we keep our long-term goals in mind, seeing them… living them every day, we will be much more likely to remember what it’s like to be new. Keeping our long-term goals active helps us asking “what if”? And “why not”? These are the questions we asked when we were new…

Work with your new hires at every opportunity. You have a vast ocean of knowledge and experience compared to the thimble of knowledge your new hire has. Only through working with them can we impart that knowledge to our new hires. Every day, when we work alongside our new hires, with their fresh eyes, they ask us questions about things that we have come to think are obvious….

At times it can take A LOT of patience, and the rewards are well worth the effort. You will be building relationships that create engagement, loyalty, and trust.

To help our new hires adapt we can:

Be mindful of not doing things the easy way… not taking shortcuts. As Leaders we should always do things the right way… people will almost always find their own short cuts, so if they see us, their Leaders, taking short cuts they will find a shortcut from that point, probably leading to poor quality work. We will have set them up for failure.

Make sure that your new hire really understands your commitment to helping them achieve their goals. This will come from meeting with them, working with them, and developing an honest, trusting relationship with them.

Make a quick list of all of the mistakes you have made. For me, there is no way this is a quick list… Remembering and sharing all of my mistakes with my team members helps keep me from taking my knowledge and experience for granted, and it puts my new hires much more at ease. They can avoid making a few of my mistakes, and they seem to have an easier time approaching me with questions.

Make it clear that you expect mistakes. If we are not making mistakes we are not trying hard enough to achieve great. Just make sure I hear about it from you first!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to remember what it’s like to be new, as well as ideas about how to help our new hires adapt to their new environment.

How And Why I Indoctrinate Team Members…

When hiring, I indoctrinate every team member I hire right then and there. Meaning, if I spend an hour or more interviewing you, and then decide to hire you, we will spend at least another hour together. I use this time to set expectations, set standards, and make sure my new hire knows, really understands that I am happy to have them on the team, that I believe in them, that the are an important part of the success of the team, and that I have every faith in their success here.

While I make every effort to only hire the best people I can find, it’s rare to be able to start with a fresh team of new hires. We usually end up inheriting a team, and then adding our hires to it through attrition, transfers, or promotions. That means we have a mix of old and new team members. Hiring is important, and what we do with and for our new people after hiring them is just as important. An above average hire, if left to someone outside the team to ‘onboard’ is likely to become an average hire. We are probably working to change the culture of our team, and turn it from average to high performing, so starting our newest person with high expectations is key.

Once I decide to hire you, we’ll sit for 45 to 60 minutes and I will literally indoctrinate you with the standards and expectations of the team. Each and every team member I hired went through this same hour or more interview, and this hour indoctrination… this is a tough team to get on to, and you should feel proud! We do not accept just anyone onto our team.

I expect you to be adaptable… this is a high performing team, and we are able switch gears on a moments notice. We support our company and it’s goals, and sometimes that means our priorities change quickly and often. You will be able to listen to your supervisor, and even other team members, and take your cues from them.   I expect that you will be a creative force on the team, and that you will see with fresh eyes all of the things that we can do to improve. You will speak directly to your supervisor of me about your concerns with systems or people, and you will not gossip or speak badly about one team member to another. I’m looking forward to your help making this already great team even better!

You will be working closely with a variety of people, and you will all be working towards the common goals of the team. Working with others is great, and I know you will be able to add your own experience and way of thinking to the mix very soon. I expect that you will show commitment to the team, and each and every other person on the team. I did not choose you lightly, and I do not put my trust in others lightly… I trust you, and expect you will not let me down. You will need to be here, on time, every day. That is the only way we stay a top performing team… we all commit to each other.

With the fast pace of the team and the frequent changes in priorities, you will need to speak up if you are not 100% sure of what you should be doing or how to do it. There is nothing wrong with not knowing, however not speaking up is one of the few unacceptable things you can do. You are an important part of the team, starting your first day, and the questions you ask, the suggestions you offer, and the genuine, honest communication you display are a key part of your contribution.

I know that you will make mistakes… they are not just expected, they are demanded! If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough. Good enough does not cut it on this team, and once you are able to achieve the desired results the way you have been taught, I expect you will draw on your experience and your intelligence and find new, more efficient ways to help the team. Sometimes you will mess up, and this is important… I need to hear about your mistakes directly from you. I don’t want to hear about your mistakes from anyone else, so as soon as you mess up, you let me know. That way I can have your back, and we’re both in good shape when questioned. This is how you show you are trustworthy on this team.

As far as you are concerned, your goals come second to the team goals. Don’t worry about who get’s credit for what on this team. We all share in the credit, and your hard work will be noted, appreciated, and rewarded. We are an actual team, so if you see another team member who needs help, just jump right in and help them. I would rather hear you ask for forgiveness than wait and ask for permission! Sometimes things will go sideways, and that’s expected… just make sure I hear about it from you.

I hired you because I believe in you! I am happy to have you on the team, and I know you are going to be successful here. The best thing you can do is be the best worker on the team. You will show enthusiasm for your job; no matter what task you are asked to do. We are all committed to keeping our floor clean and safe, so if you see a mess, you own it. We all cooperate and sweep and mop the floor; we all pick up trash; we all empty trash cans; we all apologize for the mistakes of others to keep our customers happy; we all show a sense of urgency… that means work as if you owned the store! We all take pride in our work, and we leave every workspace better than we found it. And you know… if I didn’t think you were up for all of this we wouldn’t be having this conversation… I know you are fully capable of meeting every one of my expectations.

I also expect you to stay aware of what’s going on around the store. There are bulletin boards for important information, and I expect you to read them and stay up on what’s going on. When you come to work you will connect with the person leaving, and/or your supervisor to see where we are, what needs to be done, and what the priorities are today. You will remind yourself that we are all doing the very best we can, so when you arrive and things aren’t in perfect shape, you will know that the person before you did the very best they could. You will do the same. When you get to work, you will get right to work. We are not here to chat up the girls, get a date, or find a new friend. You might see people from other teams doing that, and that is not what we do. After break or lunch we get arrive on time, and get back to work. Other team members are relying on us, and we do not want to let them down. Remember, you are an important part of the team!

At the beginning of your shift, after speaking to the other team members, you will make a plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If you are not sure how to proceed, ask! You will make your plan based on that days priorities, and the advice of your supervisor. You may have to alter your plan depending on the changing needs of the department, so work hard to make as much progress on high priority items as you can.

You will do your best to remember all of the instructions you are given, and it’s OK to write them down. Remember, it’s expected that you will make mistakes… it’s not OK to repeat them. I trust you to use whatever tools you need in order to make your plan, remember your instructions, and get the job done. We try to make sure you have everything you need to do your job. In the short-term, I know you will do your best to improvise and do whatever you need to do to get the job done. Long term, you will speak up and let us know when you need tools or supplies. You are not expected to do without, and we need you to help be our eyes and ears.

You will, in time, experience problems or difficulties here. That too is expected. I know you realize that all problems are solvable, and you are the key to that. How you see problems will either allow you to see a solution, or see them as a wall. On this team, I expect you will find solutions. If you can fix it yourself, do it! If you cannot, I expect you to speak up about the problem and present your ideas for solutions. Talking about a problem without suggesting a solution is just complaining, and that is not allowed on this team.

What makes this a high performing team? It’s people like you! I only hire the best I can find, and I am very happy to have you on this team. I am very confident that you are going to make me very proud, and I’m looking forward to introducing you to the rest of the team. I know that you realize that you are responsible for your success on this team… that is will be your hard work, your intelligence, and you pushing yourself to achieve great things that will ultimately make you the success you will be here. It won’t be easy, and I know you will stick with it and earn the respect of the rest of the team.

My commitment to you? Well… I will be brutally honest with you.   I will do my best to give you 5 or more compliments for every constructive piece of feedback. And… I will give you a lot of feedback. We will meet and talk about once a month. I’m looking forward to helping you achieve your goals, and the only way to do that is if we keep in contact and build a strong relationship. You will get a scheduled performance review every 6 months; however there will be no surprises. In our conversations we will discuss the things you are doing well, along with the things you need to improve upon. I will help you in every way I can, and I feel I am as responsible as you are for your success or failure.

I guarantee that I will make mistakes, and… I will admit them. I will be transparent with you… there are no secrets on our team.   If you have an issue or problem with another team member, I will do my best to resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction. I do not play favorites, nor do I take sides. And equitable resolution is the only outcome I will work towards. I will back you up when you try something new and it goes sideways. I will give you all of the credit for your successes, and I will accept the blame for our failures. My overarching goal is the success of the team in achieving its goals, and secondly in helping each of you achieve your personal goals.

I will communicate positively and genuinely, and I will listen to understand. I will do my best to be humble, and show gratitude for everything we achieve, as well as for each of you and what you can teach me.

I also promise to fail here and there, and to let you down once in a while. I hope by then we have a strong enough relationship that you will accept me with my failings, and we will move forward as a team. Here is my cell #. If you have any questions, you will call me.

So… yeah… something like that. When that person goes home and talks about the new job, how are they likely to describe it? Are the going to be excited about it? Or is it probably just another crappy job? I’ve found that without this indoctrination, the latter is probable. With the indoctrination, people show up for work excited, happy, and enthusiastic… off to a good start. The rest is up to me in how I train them, and how I continue to build that relationship.

Have you done anything like this? What are your experiences?

Oh… and if you like my blog, please ‘like’ my Facebook page. The button is just up there at the top right. I dare you to click it!

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