Thursday, February 01, 2007

Team Connectiveness - Part Four

The CEO on the other end of the line was frustrated. He had communication problems amongst his leadership team and those problems were now starting to trickle down to their direct reports. Moral was at an all time low. Business was churning but customer complaints on quality and timeliness were beginning to increase. People had lost respect for one another and now openly aired their grievances regardless of who might be watching or listening.

Months earlier I had been hired to come in and do an afternoon presentation on my book The Ripple Effect for his executive team retreat. During my session I had sensed there was some uneasiness when I touched on the Ripple Effect of communication and its impact on the internal and external customer. I explained that the lack of open and honest communication often proves to be the Achilles heal of most corporations (regardless of size) and that building a ripple-centric strategy often requires that his area of the business be closely examined.

They weren't ready to talk about those difficult issues then, but now months later, the CEO was being forced to admit that they were in trouble.

The issues they were facing were not unique or different than those your team may be facing right now. I know for myself when I led a team of sales, service and administrative personnel, they were certainly not far removed from what this poor guy was seeing, feeling and stressing over. And of course based on that experience and the many companies I have since worked with since, I had some advice for him.

Now I don't mean to over-simplify what I do or perhaps give you some idea that what I offer is that magic bullet that will make you the next Microsoft overnight. I am good but not even I will drink that Kool-Aid!

As I explained in part two, I asked him what he saw, heard and felt when he was in the trenches. Like me (in my 'early years'), he had mistakenly gone about growing his company and more directly, his people, by being as disconnected as they were. Although the majority of his employees had worked together for several years he didn't really think anyone knew each other, much less cared about one another. They had seen a huge increase in turnover over the past several years despite having almost none the first few years in business.

My advice was to throw down the gauntlet and address the pink elephant in the room. I asked him to ask the question "We don't like one another? What can we do to fix it?" He needed to get the dialogue going or else.

So for the next few weeks he spent time talking to every one of his employees. I explained it would not be easy and people would most assuredly not trust him at first but no matter what he needed to keep talking. He needed to be willing to encourage and really listen to what was being said AND what wasn't being said.

It took time. It took a fair amount of coaching and mentoring by me to keep his spirits up. It took a tremendous amount of effort. And it took him checking his ego at the door and an open-hearted message from him to ask his team to do the same. But as it did with me and countless other clients that I have worked with since, it began to work. It certainly wasn't easy but it the huge wheels of change began to move.

After several weeks I came in to lead their first companywide 8 Minute Ripple. I first explained the power of the Ripple and how and why it affected individually. I then expanded upon the positive momentum changes that everyone had been seeing and gave a little insight as to what the boss had been up to. He was surveying the land, cultivating the space and now we were about to lay the foundation. We would be learning together what it meant to engage, connect and finally get to know one another and we would be doing in such a way that it would be fun, rewarding and not nearly as difficult as they might expect.

Team connectiveness is, in my opinion, the single biggest factor as to whether a company will succeed or fail. People are the single biggest asset a company has. Forget product and services and realize that unless you can run your company all by yourself (God help you) then your team is the biggest part of this equation.

If your team isn't connecting, if they aren't engaging and openly communicating then something needs to be done. Lead by example. Reach out and connect yourself. Start showing an interest in your teammates in something other than work. Encourage people to get to know one another. Be a bridge builder. Make time in the day for people to commiserate whether over a hosted lunch, coffee chat or over beers at the local pub after work. Don't play games. Be honest. Tell them that no matter what, their interaction and respect for one another is paramount to the company's future abundance and success.

Bottom line, just do something! Make sure your teams are connected!

And if you are still struggling, still unsure how to make it happen then call or email me. Perhaps your team is need of a Ripple-cism!

Ripple On My Friends!

Steve Harper

P.S. Have you seen our new Ripple TV? Check it out by Clicking Here!!!

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