Help Them Connect the Dots by Jim Johnson

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My CEO and I were talking the other day about helping our teams move forward.  As a Lead Team in our organization, we spend time talking about the significant “measures that matter” and work hard to keep our pulse on the heartbeat of the member (customer) experience.  If our talk stays in our conference room, not much will happen.  I know you’ve experienced this at your shop.

For real change and forward movement to happen, the middle-management team must be fully engaged.  It is at that level where vision/purpose/mission meets behaviors/attitudes/performance.

I’m not discounting the fact that each executive must communicate clearly to his/her management team the direction they need to head.  That is imperative.

But what I’m suggesting here is that the middle managers are key in helping their teams “connect the dots” to the company’s mission and to the behaviors that will move the company to success.  And from my perspective, the best way to do this is by observing and capturing the team doing things right and then reinforcing those great behaviors to build momentum and successful habits.

If, for example, you manage a call center and you want your agents to maintain a daily 90%+ availability metric.  As the manager, you need to:

  1. Communicate this goal to your team.  Not just the numbers.  But WHY is this metric so important – i.e. higher availability rates will allow us to serve more members more quickly and will reduce abandoned calls.  This is a service goal.
  2. Keep a “scoreboard” so all on the team know where their personal performance is helping to achieve this goal
  3. Praise those that are demonstrating consistent leadership in meeting or exceeding the goal

Of course, you may need to “counsel” those that are missing the mark, but the point here is to focus on the behaviors and performances that will move your team to success.  Observations must happen on a daily basis.  In-the-moment coaching is required to do some simple course corrections with team members who are falling behind.

Do you work in the “corner office” or away from your team?  Get out of your office.  Periodically sit with your team.  I’ve done this often.  It’s a great learning experience.  I’ve actually asked my team member to “work out loud” – tell me what they’re doing while they are doing it.  I then may ask them, “why is this so important?”  I want to build purpose behind even seemingly mundane activities.  If your team member stumbles on that question, ask them “what would happen if you or someone else did NOT do this?”  That will get a response!

Keep this in mind:

  • Get out of your office and spend time observing/listening to your team.  Go on sales calls with them.
  • Coach in the moment.
  • When you praise, connect that great behavior back to the mission/vision so your team member understands what they did so well – i.e. “What you did there?  You demonstrated CREDIBILITY to our member.  They left feeling that they can trust that we will follow through with our promises.  And that’s one of our company’s values.  Great job!”
  • When you must confront/counsel, also connect the dots – “I just received a call from someone in Financial Reporting.  You were to have that report completed and sent to them yesterday. Failing to follow through shows you’re not RELIABLE. This is one of our values. What can you do now to restore your reputation?

    Leaders bring purpose and meaning to work. Don’t under estimate your influence. Get involved and help them connect the dots.

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