One of the most rewarding interventions I do as a business coach is helping a firm slow everything down and look at their operational processes in a detailed way. The goal of this process is to make the processes better, faster and cheaper. It never ceases to amaze me, how little a lot of firms truly understand what their true economic engine is. They likely have a whole range of activities and processes. They may believe that they offer or sell many different products and services. However, they have never really dove in to look at truly what drives their economic engine. I executed this intervention with a client a couple weeks ago and saw skepticism play a key role.
Here is the backstory
Prior to the larger staff meeting, the executive team had teased out; through our work together; what they believed to be the number one process that most accurately predicts profits. Subsequently, we pulled together the team of managers and front line workers involved in this process to facilitate a joint dialogue. The intention being to gather greater intelligence and look for opportunities to improve.
It was evident in the discussion that staff were quite excited to be engaging in such a discussion. The senior executives intentionally held back to allow for full engagement of staff. It was rare for the staff to be involved in this level of dialogue around improving processes. As a result, the group ended up landing on five key components to the process that if we can measure effectively, will predict better outcomes. The team unanimously endorsed this set of five. Then they engaged into deeper dive discussions about drilling down and making these components better.
What was particularly interesting is what happened when I stopped and asked everyone the extent to which they had been trained during their onboarding along the lines of these five components. As you can expect, it was quite variable. The team will now be working together to craft training and monitoring systems focused on these five key components or variables.
Then came the skepticism
Staff were on board until we got to the part of the discussion regarding how the executive team would be shifting the entire bonus structure for this department. Recognition and reward would be exactly associated with success in achieving these five key things. Annual bonuses were replaced with monthly bonuses. These monthly bonuses will be in line with the five key elements of the key economic driver process. They will be implementing a plan to do periodic audits/checks on each person’s interactions with customers along these lines. Management will assess and measure performance. The bonuses will be tendered at month’s end.
This skepticism is a good thing
This is where the staff skepticism came in. Staff were unsure about the feasibility of this. They were also unsure how it would be implemented. I believe this to be a very positive thing for several reasons:
- It shows that it must matter.
- It is not a simple thing to measure, but we don’t just measure what is easy to measure, we measure what needs to be measured and we find a way!
- When staff are skeptical, I think it is a good indicator that we are touching on something that is meaningful by way of change. It must be significant.
To summarize, this entire process with this firm was rewarding. Personally, I found the skepticism to be the greatest friend to the strategic leadership team. Now it is time to put the shoe leather on it.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Are folks on your team skeptical about anything you are planning to execute on this year? If not, perhaps you are not being innovative or bold enough.
- When skepticism arises, look to use it as a lever to keep folks engaged and promote collective dialogue regarding solutions and execution.
- Leaders who are engaging staff in meaningful and important discussions can expect some skepticism. Be sure to infuse some conversations in your workplace this week that will create some skeptics in the bunch! You will be rewarded if you navigate it well.
Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and creating psychologically healthy workplaces.