McGraw-Hill Professional
January 11, 2011
Five Ways to Engage Your Team in 2011: A Guest Post

Five ways to engage your team in 2011, presented by Roland Cavanagh and Dodd Starbird, authors of Building Engaged Team Performance: Align Your Processes and People to Achieve Game-Changing Business Results

Wouldn’t it be nice if each of your team members did “the right thing” all the time? Wow, imagine… even if they just tried…

Do they really understand what “the right thing” is? Not just the individual tasks but the context for their actions, the goal?

We’ll start this brief discussion in the same way that we’d recommend that you start your journey to engage your own team – it’s the first of our five ways:

#1: Share the goals and the strategy

Here’s the analogy: The goal of this article is to describe five actions that a leader can take to help a group of individuals begin their transition to become an engaged team. In short, the way to do that is to give them context and detail about the job at hand, with appropriate goals, measures and visual data, and then step back and let them work.  Starting with a goal and a strategy helps, doesn’t it?

So, step 1 is to publish and discuss with your group the company and departmental goals, and the actions and initiatives that will be executed in 2011 to achieve those goals. Now the group can see the alignment between the priorities and the goals.

#2: Develop aligned team goals

An old mentor of mine frequently reminded me that “all plans must eventually deteriorate into action” – the same is true for strategies and initiatives – they must all be made specific in order to drive the right behaviors and cause the actions that will achieve success. If one of the dimensions of success is having your work group perform as a team, then they need goals that drive team behaviors. If I have an individual goal of delivering 20 quotes per day, then I’m likely to pace myself to accomplish those 20. If, on the other hand, seven of us have a team goal of 140, (or better yet, just to have none remaining to do at the end of the day), then I may press myself to deliver more than my “fair share” so that the team can win. Item 2 on our list is therefore: Develop aligned team goals – aligned with the company and departmental goals and constructed to drive collaborative behavior.

#3: Develop fair, aligned measures

If some of those quotes require extensive research and others are a slam dunk, then it is only reasonable to expect that I will have some difficult days and some easy ones depending on the mix of work that arrives. Worst case, if I’m clever, I’ll figure out how to “cherry pick” and find the easy ones to do so I don’t have to work so hard… And if I’m only measured on quantity, I may find ways to compromise the quality in order to make quota (believe me, we’ve seen it all!). These observations lead us to item #3: Establish fair, aligned measures. Fair, in that they represent and report the true effort necessary to do the work (the easy ones get 10 minutes credit while the difficult get 25 minutes, for example) and aligned through measurement of all of the key characteristics including quality and quantity.

#4: Make the data visual and timely

Aligned goals supported by fair measures are great, but if they are presented as a PFN (Page Full of Numbers) a month after the fact, they aren’t usually that impactful or useful. Typically time gets spent witch-hunting or defending something in the data that occurred a couple of weeks ago, while key trends get overlooked. Item 4 of this presentation is: Make the data visual and timely. Post and plot data every day – post the actual number, and plot it on a line or trend chart immediately as it occurs. This can be automated from a computer system, or even can be set up so that each person steps up and adds a “tick” as they finish each item. In rapidly changing environments, the numbers and charts need updating as frequently as every hour, sometimes once per day. Waiting until the end of the week or month to post data is like driving forward while looking in the rear view mirror. Real-time visual data is actionable – we, the team, can see our success and our situation, and begin to turn observations into positive actions. Agents in a recent project, when able to observe the patterns of arrival of customer demand, began negotiating among themselves a lunch schedule that provided better coverage.

#5: Get out of the way!

All this comes to naught if you can’t give over some responsibility and authority to the team – responsibility to recognize the need for action and authority to act. Not unlimited freedom to do as they please, but rather within legal and company policies and reasonable bounds associated with the work to be done. Consensus adjustment of work and lunch schedules may be acceptable, but recruiting new agents probably isn’t. Therefore the last item on our list of five is: Get out of the way! Expect them to act as a team and collaborate, decide, and act in alignment with the measures and goals. “Trust but verify,” President Reagan said near the end of the Cold War – and here you will have the data to confirm the team’s performance.

So, we’d encourage you to make a New Years’ Resolution to go out and try the five ways to help your group of individuals on their way to becoming an engaged team: