I want to tell you a story about one point in my career when I was part of a team that did not communicate. I had just started as an IT Support Specialist at a very large energy technology company. My manager was based out of Atlanta, and I was to support the offices in Minnesota.
What started out as a pleasant enough experience quickly went downhill. After a week of shadowing the only other support specialist in the state, I was let loose to do my job. At this point I realized I hadn’t been told many of the key elements of my job, the biggest of which was that speed was prioritized over long-term fixes. As I began to discover lapses in my training, it became very clear that those who were senior to me did not have the patience or strength of character to lead and mentor me when I ran into problems. “In the absence of rules, people tend to make up their own,” and there was a distinct absence of “rules,” a.k.a. core processes and guidelines about how I should do the job I was hired for.
It should come as no surprise that I was only at that company for a grand total of six weeks before I quit.
Experiences like mine are unfortunately common in the professional world. By placing a high level of importance on efficiency and productivity, the top level leaders and executives set a deadly precedent for the other leaders below them and across the business. They send the message that it doesn’t matter how something gets done, as long as the numbers are met. Sentiments like this emphasize the character flaws of everyone, employees and management alike, and lead to work environments that are tense, stressful, and full of conflict as tempers flare.
It is possible to have a highly efficient, productive team that also enjoys their environment and those they work with—especially those in leadership positions. Let’s dive into this concept.
Make the rules & policies clear
When I walked into work on day one at that technology company, I was not scheduled to learn about the team and how things were done. Instead, I was met by the office assistant and later introduced to my support counterpart. The message sent by the structure of my first day, not to mention my first week, was that I was expected to know everything about how to do my job.
Now, IT support is something every company uses at some point or another. A lot of elements are consistent regardless of what team you happen to be supporting. However, a ton of other elements differ from team to team and company to company. These are cultural and procedural elements that new hires should not have to learn the hard way. It’s one thing to have your operating procedures documented. It is an entirely different thing to make sure those procedures and cultural assumptions are clearly understood.
If you have up-to-date documentation that clearly defines how things work in your team, I commend you. You’re way ahead of most businesses. If you have systems for training new hires on them and communicating any changes to the processes, your situation is rare indeed. Most of the teams I have worked with have some sort of procedural documentation, but often it hasn’t been looked at for five to ten years or longer. The leader’s mindset is something along the lines of, “the team has it figured out, so why should I spend time on it?”
Let’s consider that question for a moment. How much time is spent by you or others on your team training in a new hire? How often do you, the leader, have to deal with conflicts around how something should be done? How often are people “going rogue” and creating chaos by doing something their way? All of these scenarios cost time and resources, not just for the individual involved, but for the team as a whole, for your customers and clients, for your company, and for you, the leader.
If efficiency and productivity are the goal, how can you not spend time on continuously developing procedures and collaborating with your team to make sure they are correct?
Think about the most highly performing teams and companies you can. How do they achieve such performance? In the smaller percentage of cases where the company does not drive performance by burning out their staff, the situation is always the same: there are clear, simple rules and procedures that have been developed and agreed to by each team that are followed and enforced every. Single. Day. These teams, idolized for their ability to exceed goals regularly without high turnover or destructive stress, follow their rules strictly and hold each other accountable. It’s not a situation where the leader cracks the whip each day, but one where the leader is in the trenches with their team and the “Policeman” that enforces the rules is everyone’s agreement to be accountable to them.
If you are struggling with any of the items mentioned above, make sure you schedule a call with Adam “Curious” Kobler. He can help you and your team achieve the type of performance we just discussed. Click the link to set an appointment: Free Consultation