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Moving Towards Great… Changing behaviors that were acceptable in the past

bonsai forrestWhat Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 7 of a series…

Next time we will talk about how expectations for behavior and performance will be changing, and how to make this process as painless and blameless as possible.

(Cue into music)  So we’re back with part 7 of what seems to be a growing series on how to hire for, and develop a great team.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities because they can’t be trained; about how and why we welcome (indoctrinate) our new hire; and how to start removing roadblocks that are keeping our current team members from being great.

Next up, we have to change our team member’s expectations for service, performance, and behavior. 

If we have been leading this team for some time, we have allowed the team, as well as the culture, to become whatever it has become.  We have allowed the current standards to develop, and our actions (or lack thereof) have allowed the current culture to be the norm.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter if we are new to the team, or if we have been the team Leader, our goal is the same… we need to change the standards, the expectations, and the culture of our team.

I have found, through trial and more error than I’d like to admit, that the best way to go about this is accepting responsibility for the current state of affairs.  Even if you are new to the team, accepting responsibility for allowing the current reality will go a long way in beginning to develop trust with your team members.

Blaming the past Leadership, even if you don’t feel as if you are bad mouthing them, will certainly turn off a number of your team members.  It seems that the most simple and productive way through this is to tell ourselves that they did the best they could with the tools they had (because that is exactly what they did), and our job is to move forward from where we are now.

So, to continue changing the expectations for our team, we will need to address the behaviors or standards that were acceptable in the past, and state clearly what will be the standard moving forward.  These conversations will happen with individual team Leaders, team members, department teams, and with our entire team gathered together for a whole team meeting.

I realize that I write very differently than most, in that I try to spell out exactly what to do in order to achieve the results I describe.  This makes for longer posts, as well as fewer bullet points, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Perhaps a few examples are in order…

We’ll start by talking about why we feel the need to make these changes, with honesty and transparency.  This is the only way to move forward and have any chance of achieving great.

You will own all responsibility for allowing the current conditions and standards of behavior… If you are not willing to do this you will not achieve great!

The more open and honest you are with your team members the better the odds they will trust your intentions and want to move forward with you.

So… I’ll list some examples of behaviors with the one successful way I have found to state how things will be changing.  This is not necessarily the only way to go about this, just the way I’ve found that works.

In the past, it’s been OK to complete and turn in your period end inventory without being audited by store Leadership.  Moving forward, you are responsible for getting a member of store Leadership to audit your inventory before handing it in.  This is not a punishment, nor is it because I do not trust you… it is simply a smart way of double-checking important work.  We all make mistakes, and using another pair of eyes is the best way to run our business.

In the past, I have allowed people’s attention to be on cell phones and laptops during meetings, instead of what was happening at the meeting.  Moving forward, cell phones will be put away, and laptops will be closed during meetings so we can all be present and participate in the running of our business.

In the past, team members have been allowed to have phones in their hands while on the clock, and on the sales floor.  Moving forward, once clocked in (and not on break or lunch) we will focus on our work, and our customers.  Cell phones are distractions, and so should not be in our hands or used at all during work hours.  If a team member has a personal situation that they feel necessitates cell phone use or availability, they need to talk to their team Leader about it before beginning work.

In the past, it has been acceptable to turn in team member reviews past the due date.  Moving forward, reviews will be completed and filed before the due date.  If there is a reason you do not feel this is possible, you must speak to your team Leader about it 2 weeks before the due date.  Our team members deserve their reviews on time.

These are just a few simple examples, and in each, we are accepting that the behavior had been accepted in the past, so there is no consequence for that past behavior.  However, in the future, we spell out the new expectation, and explain why the expectation is changing.  Doing this right will answer most questions, and get everyone on board.

Only a few parts left… We started changing the culture of our team by hiring only great team members, and continued by addressing behaviors that need to change.  In the next few posts we’ll talk about how to create a culture where feedback flows pretty freely, and where our team members ask forgiveness rather than for permission when trying something new.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Changing expectations

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 6 of a series…

Welcome to part 6 of this series on hiring and developing a great team, specifically with an hourly workforce.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities, correctly welcoming (indoctrinating) your new hires, and now we are moving to the next steps necessary to keep your great new hires great, as well as changing expectations for your current team members.  In part 5 we talked about helping people who do not belong on your team find their happiness elsewhere, and deciding if they really have to go, or are we acting out of fear.

Today we will focus on:

2. Changing expectations for our existing team members.

We will likely have a large number of our team members happy to be getting great new people on the team (finally!), and happy to see the worst go (what have you been waiting for?).  The rest will be swept along by the strongest force (whether it be good or evil), and while they are not the yet the great team members we’d like to have on the team, I’ve found that the ‘window’ for great team members is wider that most people think.  Many more people would be great additions to the team if they are properly trained, trusted, allowed to take chances, and if they really believe that we, their team Leaders, have their best interest at heart.

Our current team members are not yet acting like Great team members for several reasons.  As Leaders, I believe our first job is to assume that our team members are fully capable of greatness, and our job is to remove the roadblocks that are holding them back.

Some of them have had the creativity and willingness to speak up beaten out of them by past bosses.  They are now doing average work because in the past it has not been in their best interest to speak up, make suggestions, maintain high work standards, or exceed expectations.

For these people the process will include brainstorming sessions, allowing them to move forward with their ideas with little or no input from you, and rewarding and celebrating each and every time one of them speaks up, offers an idea, or provides even the smallest bit of constructive criticism.

You should expect the process of encouraging people to speak up to take some time… months at least, if not longer.  At first they will not trust you to listen to, or care about what they have to say.  The need for patience and understanding is paramount, and your ability to ride out this process will be tested.  If you are able to stick with it, the payoff will be more than worth it.

Some of them have always had each and every step of their jobs spelled out for them, and have not had the freedom to innovate, or make any decisions for themselves.  These people have been taught to follow orders, rules, and job descriptions to the letter, and the thought of changing this learned behavior could be very scary.

These people do not expect to be trusted (in fact they will likely expect just the opposite), so you must be not just willing, but eager to extend trust to everyone on your team.  People don’t need to ‘earn’ your trust… people deserve trust simply because they are people.  And as Leaders it is our job to extend trust.

Here again, we get more of what we reward and celebrate.  So… if we want our team members to take chances, try new methods, and innovate, we should celebrate and reward each and every instance.

I have found that it helps to suggest ways in which people might step out of their rigid confines (whether they are self defined, or have been defined for them by others).  We are often able to see the right answers and best course of action for others, and yet unable to see any path at all for ourselves.

Literally making suggestions about how to approach their work differently may not work, since too many people will hear our suggestions as yet more direction.  So… I’ve had success simply relating my experiences…  “When I was… I tried this…” or “I had this great team Leader who suggested that I try… I failed miserably, but because of that failure I thought of trying… which worked out great” or “I’ve seen this… or this… work in the past, and I bet you can come up with an even better way to…”

This is where celebrating every attempt will help you, because many of your team members will be hesitant to try something new for fear of failure… or more specifically, the consequences of failure.  So… having their team Leader celebrate and reward every attempt at innovation will go a long way toward helping your people break out of their old habits.

Some people have ideas or pictures of themselves that are not true, or not supported by fact.  You know the stories we tell ourselves… like: I’m not good at math… I could do everything about the next job but the financials.  For whatever reason, many of us tell ourselves, convince ourselves that we are not capable, or not able to do certain jobs or tasks … we can help people break out of these limiting molds and thought patterns.

As we develop relationships with our team members, we will begin to understand what thought patterns are getting in the way, and over time we can work on helping our team members see that these beliefs are not only false, but often the opposite is true!  They will only listen to us however, once we show them that we have their best interest at heart.

Some people have attitudes that stand in their way.  We can be too idealistic, feel that everything we do must be perfect, or that we cannot compromise at all without compromising who we are.  Attitudes like this can easily keep us from building on our strengths, getting enough tasks accomplished, or working well as part of a team.

We can help these people by showing them how this belief or behavior is getting in the way of achieving their goals.  Our first job, as usual, is to develop strong, trusting relationships.  Then, when they realize that our goals for them are the same as their goals for themselves, they will actually hear us when we talk to them about how these attitudes (which then affect their behaviors) are keeping them from achieving their goals.

To sum up… to move our current team members from average to great, our first steps are to build strong, trusting relationships; assume there are obstacles keeping them from being great; removing the obstacles and roadblocks we can remove; helping our team members develop new habits and overcome old patterns; and rewarding and celebrating every attempt towards the behaviors we need to see more of.

Next time we will discuss how our expectations for performance and behavior need to change in order to achieve great, as well as how to relate these changes to our team.  As the past behavior of the team is exactly what we allowed it to be, we need to fully own our responsibility in order for the team to accept the needed changes.

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