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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.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… It Takes A Carefully Planned And Ruthless Assault On “Good”

Assault on horseback

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 2 of a series…

So here we are back with part 2 of this series. We are starting with hiring hourly team members, everyone from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders. When hiring for this level we are hiring almost exclusively for Leadership qualities. This is because those qualities are the things that make people clone worthy, as opposed to skills. We can easily train for pretty much any skills needed, however we cannot train qualities. So let’s continue…

Before we get too far, we should talk for a minute about the actual interview. I’ve seen it happen enough times that want to state very clearly that the interview process is no place for us to ‘exert our authority’, make sure ‘they know who is in charge’, or work to make the applicant uncomfortable to see how they react. If you are doing these things you are doing it wrong, at least if you want to call yourself a Leader by any stretch of the imagination. Interviewing with this attitude is pretty much guaranteed to give you mediocre workers who will do what they are told to do, and little more. Mkay?

Hiring for qualities is a bit different from hiring for skills, as at least in my experience, the best way to determine what Leadership qualities our applicant has been developing is through conversation, rather than simply questions and answers… I find “tell me about a time…” much less useful than getting my applicant comfortable enough to tell me all about the things in her life that she is proud of, where she puts her energy, what kinds of things frustrate her, and what gets her into a ‘flow’ state, to name just a few. I believe that we all have Leadership qualities within us to one degree or another. The key is finding the people who have been developing these qualities throughout their lives.

I know that a large percentage of our applicants have been interviewed many times now, so a good number of them know just what we want to hear. If they are smart they probably have already thought about how to answer many of the questions they have heard before. This is another reason why I prefer the conversational approach… it doesn’t allow the applicants to stick with their ‘script’ or preformed answers.

I believe the best way to find Leadership qualities in others is to determine whether or not they show the behaviors that describe those qualities. Qualities, by their very nature can be difficult to pin down, however I think we could easily come up with a list of behaviors that describe each quality or trait. Read more about behaviors that describe Leadership qualities starting here.

For instance, I believe that the ability to hear and respond to feedback is on of the most important qualities a new hourly team member can have… In my experience it is perhaps the best indicator of future success, maybe because it means they are trainable, coachable, and humble. So… how will we determine whether or not our applicant has this quality?

I try to get them to tell me all about their experience of school, trying to get into college/grad school, involvement in sports, or any other way they may have received feedback. I don’t ask specific enough questions to allow them to fall back on any prepared answers. Since no one else ever asked them what they thought about their performance in that pick up game last weekend, how they responded to the feedback they got from their high school football coach, or the grade they got in that college class when they thought they deserved better, I generally get honest answers.

Any instance in our lives when we get feedback is fair game. What makes you think you are a good driver? On what do you base that opinion? Do you follow the advice of the personal trainer at the gym, or do you think you know better? What have you learned in your personal relationships? I can easily give many examples of when I have hurt the feelings of people in my life, and how I reacted to that feedback. Is that their problem? What’s my responsibility, if any? These are all roads that out applicant has never been down in an interview, so we are likely to have an honest and genuine conversation.

I know you are all screaming at me… how about feedback from another job? Of course this is appropriate, and can be very useful. However, remember that our applicant has been asked about this many times already, so again, if they are smart they have learned what to say about feedback from work. I also feel that my personal experience has some bearing here. I’ve worked for, and with, some really poor bosses, and at work places where honest feedback was not the rule. There are a lot of people out there who have been forced into the bottom, middle, or top third simply because that’s the way the company did things, so bosses had to come up with some reasons for assigning a person to this rung. Because of the way this is set up, the feedback that many people get at work is often not honest feedback, with the intention of helping that person learn and grow. If it happened to me, it happened to a lot of other people, so I feel we have to take feedback from past jobs with a grain of salt.

What about another quality before we call it a day? How about self-responsibility? Since we are already involved in a friendly, casual conversation with our applicant, we probably already have some example of something that didn’t go as planned. So we just need to find out a little more about the outcome… who was at fault? Did our applicant have any part to play? What about that feedback you got from your guidance counselor/coach/parents/friends/boss? What did you learn from that? How were you responsible for what happened?

Have you been late for work or some other appointment? What happened? I need to hear the applicant take responsibility… yes the train was late… not your fault. And… what, if anything did you do? Did you start taking an earlier train since we know trains will be late? Did you find alternatives, like friends you can call when the train is late? These are simple examples of self-responsible behaviors.

To spell it out, I need to hear that our applicant, at least at some point recently, heard feedback and understood that the other person’s experience of them is that person’s reality.   To be coachable, the applicant needs to have changed their behavior in response to that feedback. For self-responsibility, I need to believe that our applicant takes responsibility for the things that happen in their lives; that their choices determine what happens (not everything that happens of course) and that they are responsible for the choices they make. If I don’t hear these things, I’ll thank them for coming in and move onto my next applicant.

Self responsibility, teachability, honesty, some level of emotional intelligence, some level of self awareness, and feeling that quality work is it’s own reward are some of my make or break qualities. If I do not believe that my applicant is developing these qualities I will not hire them, no matter how skilled they might be. Remember, this is just a quick synopsis… you can find my whole 16 part series on hiring, with a lot more detail, starting here.

Wow… this takes so long to discuss doesn’t it? That has to be long enough (probably too long many will tell me) for today, and we’ll pick up next time with what to do once we decide to hire the person sitting in front of us. No… if we want great we cannot simply shake their hand and send them off to have another person take over. We need to indoctrinate them. Yes… I understand that many of you don’t like that word, and all of its connotations.   And… I don’t believe that we can get ‘great’ by using the same process (welcoming and training, the same onboarding that gave you the average team you have) you’ve been using. Great doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a planned assault on Good. Hey, that’s catchy… maybe I’ll use that for todays title huh?

Leadership Training and You… The Sobering Truth

Train on tracks

OK… maybe that title is a bit dramatic.  And…

Leadership development programs don’t work as expected.  They will have some small impact on most participants, and no impact on a few.  However they will only have the desired impact on one or two participants.  Why?

Because Leadership is not a skill…

Many of the actions that Leaders take could be seen as skills.  We can teach people how to go through the motions of almost any skill.  We can teach people what actions people who have certain Leadership qualities take… what actions describe that quality.  However, since Leadership is not simply a compilation of skills, or simply a list of actions, we cannot teach Leadership.

Leadership is not a science…

Leadership is not facts, figures, or formulas.  We can tell people how a Leader might act when faced with a particular situation.  However, since Leadership involves other people who are all unique, there is no one right way to deal with any situation.  Remembering what to do, or how to act does not make great Leaders.

We have to want to take the actions that describe Leadership…

Simply knowing what actions to take does not mean we will take those actions.  Almost all of us know how to pray, and yet how many of us pray on a regular basis?  It takes a high level of faith, or belief to keep us praying daily throughout our lives.

It’s the same with Leadership…

We can teach people what generous people do, and that does not make people generous.  Only those who have a strong belief that giving is fuel for contentment; who feel good when they give things away; who feel good when helping others; and who see the world as abundant, with plenty to go around will actually be generous.

We can teach people what people who listen to understand do, and that does not make them good listeners.  Only people who believe that listening to others is important; who care about others enough to be interested not only in what they say, but how they feel; who believe that the thoughts and feelings of other’s are important; and who really care about helping others will actually listen to hear both what others are saying, and how they feel about what they are saying.

We can teach people why good communication skills are important, as well as how good communicators act, however this will not create good communicators.  Only those who believe in building strong relationships; who understand why ‘no one took them the wrong way’; who believe that they are responsible for how they come across; who are not constantly judging others; and who genuinely care about others will communicate in a way that will allow others to fully understand.

These are just three simple examples of why Leadership cannot be taught… because

Leadership is really a way of seeing ourselves, the world, and how we fit into that world.

This view only changes for each of us through mistakes, personal growth, maturity, and emotional development.  We cannot force these types of changes on others, no matter how much any of us wants it to happen.  Leadership is only developed as we learn life lessons about ourselves.  We can only foster a culture, an atmosphere, where people feel safe, trusted, and valued among other things.   This way those people can make mistakes, confide in us, trust us, and believe that we are here to help them develop these qualities, and support them through this process.

We only learn life lessons when we are ready to learn them…

We will only learn about qualities when we are ready to learn…  that is, when we have reached the appropriate level of maturity, and emotional development.  Any adult who ever attempted to teach a child about self-awareness, self-responsibility, or empathy knows that this is true.  Until we reach a certain point in our development, have made enough mistakes, and are then open to hearing about them, lessons about qualities simply make no sense to us.  The people we are trying to teach are not stupid, or incapable of learning… they are just not yet ready to learn what we are attempting to teach, and cannot understand it.

Your time, money, and energy are much better spent truly supporting Leadership and Leadership development in your workplace.

  • If you really want to support Leadership and develop Leaders:
  • Be the best example of great Leadership for everyone around you.
  • Encourage and support mistakes… if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough
  • Allow your Leaders the time it takes to build strong, trusting relationships with their team members.
  • Encourage and support disagreement, and opposing opinions… we only learn from people who disagree with us.
  • Create a Leadership library, start a Leadership book club, and get involved in the discussion.
  • Foster transparency… there should be no secrets… everyone should know and understand everything.
  • Hire only the best, never settling…
  • Hire only for Leadership qualities first and foremost.
  • Include insurance that covers mental health.
  • Work honestly with poor performers… can they be great in another role? If not, move them off the team.
  • Align your rewards systems with Leadership and the development of others. This is the only real way you will see this continue.

People can be taught to do something once, maybe twice… to have the behavior continue after that, that they must believe in it.  They must want to do it because it’s the right thing to do… the only way to be.  This cannot be taught.

 

I have, for your reading pleasure, links below for articles I’ve written about the subjects above.  Thank you for your time and attention!

 

My thoughts on what Leadership is and is not.

My 16 part series on hiring for qualities rather than skills starts here.

My recent article on job descriptions and mediocrity.

Transparency and trust

And this article about Leadership training from Forbes by Rajeev Peshawaria that I thought was interesting

Does Your Workplace Foster Excellence Or Mediocrity?

Excellence poster

Everything needs the right climate for growth.

If you have mediocre conditions you are going to get mediocre results.

You have to provide the right conditions to manifest excellent results.

It doesn’t really matter what results you are seeking, if you are not mindful of the climate you are operating in and/or creating, your results may be mediocre rather than excellent.

Take a look at your company… an honest, objective look.

  • Are you achieving your goals? Are you generally meeting or exceeding your forecasts without some kind of threat or negative consequence?
  • Do your team Leaders regularly reach out to you with questions and concerns?
  • Do they occasionally reach out and tell you that they aren’t sure what to do, ask how best to proceed, and to ask for advice or clarity?
  • Do they sometimes question your decisions? And does this lead to an open discussion?
  • Do you trust pretty much all of them? Do you extend trust as a rule?
  • Do you foster a culture of encouragement, and give 5 to 9 positives for every constructive comment? Do you do this yourself, and do you remind others to do this?

It doesn’t matter what you would like to happen, or what should happen… Answer these questions with what is actually happening in your workplace.

If you answer mostly no to these questions…

You are likely creating and supporting a culture of fear, and you are fostering mediocre performance.

You are teaching your team Leaders to keep their opinions to themselves; to play it safe and shoot for staying under the radar; that they are not safe in their jobs; and that they should not take any risks or chances to strive for excellence.

You are developing a culture of ‘every man for himself’. Your team Leaders do not feel that they are an important part of the team, nor do they share your goals.

You will see this reflected in disengaged team members and team Leaders. They will be going through the motions, however they will not be showing any passion for their work. Your team members are not happy in their jobs, and this will not feel like a happy workplace; they are not engaging with your customers; nor are they striving to do their best.

You can turn this around! It will take time, and energy, and you can do it.

How to foster excellent results…

  • Excellence follows clear and transparent expectations. Everyone at every level should be aware of the expectations, and they should be consistent at each level.
  • Encourage innovation by aligning rewards with attempts at innovation and risk taking, in addition to excellence, as long as it is supporting the stated goals.
  • Encourage mistakes… if you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough! And if you can’t afford a mistake then be a partner in that area/process. Don’t leave your team leaders out to dry… work with them to assure success where it is critical.
  • Understand that everyone is not great at everything. We all have our strengths, and we should be playing to our strengths and working to build on them. People will need help in areas that are not their strengths, support them; partner them with those who have those strengths; partner with them yourself. Fully support them through the hard times and they will reward you will trust and loyalty.
  • Build strong trusting relationships… this is Leadership people. Creating relationships with others is what allows you influence them. Yes it takes time and energy… do you want to achieve your goals or not?
  • Build a culture of trust. This means that you, the Leader, must extend trust to those around you. It is up to you to say, out loud, publicly, that you trust them, believe in them, and are confident in them. It’s up to you to help them feel safe in their jobs… safe trying new things, safe attempting and possibly failing. Your Leaders and team members are the ones carrying out and achieving the goals of the team… each one of them needs to feel like an appreciated, and important part of the team.
  • Build a culture of encouragement. This means you are not critiquing everything everyone does all of the time. Would you welcome someone outside your company to come in and second-guess every decision you ever made? So stop criticizing all of the time, and start praising every little win. You will be amazed at the difference in the attitudes of those around you when you start seeing the things they do right. Yup… they will start doing more things right.
  • Understand the cyclical nature of everything… no one stays on top forever. No one will be striving to be at the top of their game if they will get in trouble for every slip. No team Leader will work harder, and push his or her team to be atop the KPI list if all they get is hassled when they cannot maintain that position.
  • Reward Leadership and Leadership development — people have to feel inspired to achieve excellence, and we are not inspired by some disconnected goals, or by tasks. It takes Leaders, people who build relationships to inspire a team to greatness. Reward leadership development because you need to be in this for the long run… you need to build bench strength… tomorrows Leaders.

People will not take the time to do any of these things if your reward system is not in alignment. You will get more of what you reward and celebrate… you will not get what you do not reward. It’s that simple.

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