Keep Your Team Focused
Originally published: 06.01.17 by Bob McEwan
How do you keep the team focused on achieving the goals of the business? Why are some teams better than others? Is it the leader, the people, the operational process? How do you keep the team on track?
How do you classify goals — short term or long term? How many goals are enough? How do you measure and track. How do you get “buy in” across the organization?
Meeting goals and objectives is what makes a business successful. The great companies — both large and small, public or private — have a culture that expects making the numbers.
Let me start with a story. The year was 1979; I accepted a position as supervisor at the GE Aviation plant in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was leaving the teaching profession and moving into the business world.
This particular facility was huge 20,000 people and over 2 million sq. ft. of floor space. Labor and management relations were strained, neither side trusted each other and not much engagement took place. It was on this job I learned the value of having a goal.
I was responsible for 30 men, mostly machinists, and our product was producing approximately 100 pieces of rotating jet engine components a week. My boss gave me a one-page document every week detailing what components had to ship this week and the following week — very simple and clear.
On the second week, I thought it wise to share a copy of this with all my guys — good idea, right? The guys took the shipment sheet and threw them back at me and said, “Hey, college boy, the way it works around here is, management worries about the business and we just cut the chips, leave us alone.”
This reaction definitely set me back and I wondered how I was going to get these components produced every week without their help.
I stayed the course every week and when I handed out paychecks (long before direct deposit), I’d give each guy a copy of our performance. After a couple of months, a few of the guys started sharing ideas with me on how to meet the target.
Eventually, most helped support the effort — even though they didn’t want anyone to know they were helping the company meet numbers.
By the end of the first year, my unit was consistently hitting targets. We became the No. 1 unit in the entire facility. Everyone in management wanted to know what I did.
“How were you able to meet these targets consistently? It also appears your guys are engaged and positive,” I’d get asked. The answer was simple.
I had 30 people working in unison and we all knew the goal and we went after it. I supported my team 100 percent. I worked the external and they worked the internal. All together, we were winners and I made sure we celebrated our successes.
In this example, I learned the value of making sure a team knows what you want from them. People need to know why they’re here and where they’re going.
Simple and Clear
Keep the goals simple and clear. Simple goals are easy to remember; they can resonate through the organization quickly. Most of the 34 years I spent in operations roles, I stuck to the basics; I limited my goals for the organization to two, no more than three. Deliver on time, continuous productivity and perfect quality.
I used slogans such as “perfect parts fast,” “ship parts on time and make money” and “compliance: do the right thing.” They may seem high level, but they were always tied to a number.
Use all the tools in your toolbox. Earlier in my career, I used weekly meetings with my employees to share our metrics. On a daily basis, I walked the floor, held numerous one-on-one discussions and communicated to our internal customers regularly.
Later in my career, I was able to use all the digital tools available today: videos, emails, blogs, newsletters, etc. These enhanced my ability to connect with my entire organization.
Every week, I communicated our goals, our progress on the goals and kept the target in front of everyone in the organization. People need repetition and constant reinforcement. I know people say I repeat myself frequently. I do this on purpose, because I want everyone to know I’m serious on making the metrics. I kept the goal in front of everyone.
What gets measured, gets worked.
Track and Listen
Hold weekly meetings regarding your metrics. You must have an operating rhythm that keeps you informed. It’s important to have a balance — as the boss you need to know at a high level if the team is on track, but you also need to show the organization that you can dive into the details.
Listen to your team, build their trust and have them become part of the success. Your team usually has the answers and understands the challenges. Allow them the freedom to pull together the details of the plan.
Two-way communication keeps your finger on the pulse of the group, I constantly asked for input and what my team needed from me. Let the team know you’re one of them.
You must act quickly and promptly. Continue to measure and track the metrics, but if they drift you need to adjust the plan. Allow the team the flexibility to make these changes. Don’t be afraid to make decisions. Support and remove the barriers for your team, clear their path to success.
Keep the team focused, share the goal frequently, measure, track, listen to your team and act accordingly. You will be successful.