Sprint Engagement – Part Three

Sprint Engagement - Part Three

Part 3 of 4

April showers bring May flowers.
Happy Easter everyone! When I think of spring and the Easter season, symbolism like rebirth and renewal, love, hope, youth, and growth come to mind. This symbolism can be applied to how our teams progress in their engagement levels. New hires are fired up, ready to go, and eager to learn. When they hit the ground, provided they've had proper training, they hit it running. But over time, everyone needs to be recharged. We all need rebirth and renewal of spirit. As leaders, effectively satisfying each of the Twelve Elements creates an environment of rebirth and renewal-an opportunity for growth, enrichment, and continued success. Just how awesome is that!
Over the last two weeks, we've covered the first six elements from the acclaimed book Twelve: The Elements of Great Managing (Gallup, 2006) by Rodd Wagner and James Harter. In this book, the authors lay out a compelling case for keeping our teams engaged, refreshed, and renewed all season long. Here's what we've covered so far:
1. Knowing What's Expected (Week 1)
2. Materials and Equipment (Week 1)
3. The Opportunity to Do What I Do Best (Week 1)
4. Recognition and Praise (Week 2)
5. Someone at Work Cares About Me as a Person (Week 2)
6. Someone at Work Encourages My Development (Week 2)
This week, I am excited to share with you the seventh through ninth elements:
Week Three - The Seventh through Ninth Elements
Element Seven: My Opinion Seems to Count
I began my professional career at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I like to say that I grew up professionally there. After starting in attractions in 1993, I moved to ticketing in October of 2000 where I led the ticketing team for nearly six years. That fall, when I was asked to take on the challenge of fixing the ticketing operation--it was indeed broken--I certainly had my work cut out for me. We had just launched a brand new show--Blue Man Group, Live at Luxor, which opened the previous winter. Due in combination to the show's overwhelming success, coupled with our unprepared infrastructure, we had a small window of time to fix some big problems.
Our biggest problem-and the one that we chose to tackle first was our show ticketing call center. When I took over ticketing, our call center had an abandonment rate of near 40%. The industry standard is somewhere between 3% and 5%. We also had a commitment to our partners, Blue Man Productions, who were also extremely concerned. In fact, they viewed the excessive abandonment rate as real lost revenue--a fair statement. Our initial response had been to simply throw more labor hours at the call center which met with mediocre results.
However, one of our team members saw exactly what the problem was. Francisco had worked in ticketing for just a short period of time when he came to me with his concerns. "Marty", he began, "it's hot in there--really hot. It's noisy and overcrowded too. We've got 10 people crammed into a small room that was never designed to be a call center. The ventilation can't keep up with the number of people and PCs that are in there-all of that makes it a very bad place to work. We need a more comfortable environment for the team to be effective."
Francisco was right. In fact, the room where the call center had been placed was never designed to be a call center or even a real office for that matter. It was simply a void beneath the ramp way for one of the theaters. Based on Francisco's recommendation, we found a new home for the call center-one in which we were able to provide ample ventilation, custom-designed work stations, and even an elevated supervisor desk. We finally had a real call center.
Over the next few months, we continued to adjust staffing levels, breaks, and lunches in order to reduce the call center's abandonment rate. Eventually, were able to achieve our goal of an abandonment rate of below 5%. Francisco's honest assertion made all the difference.
Keep in mind, it's not about bolting a suggestion box to the wall and hoping that people will contribute. That's too passive for keeping the team engaged in sharing opinions. It's about creating an environment in which suggestions are welcomed, appreciated, and, whenever it makes sense, suggestions are actually implemented. We can do this by scheduling one-on-one's and town halls with our team. In these free and open environments, we can share observations, ask for suggestions, and solve problems together. When we can successfully facilitate this kind of discussion and sharing, everyone wins!
Element Eight: A Connection with the Mission of the Company
"If a job were just a job, it really wouldn't matter where someone worked. A good paycheck, decent benefits, reasonable hours, and comfortable working conditions would be enough. The job would serve its function of putting food on the table and money in the kids' college accounts. But a uniquely human twist occurs after the basic needs are fulfilled. The employee searches for meaning in her vocation. For reasons that transcend the physical needs fulfilled by earning a living, she looks for her contribution to a higher purpose. Something within her looks for something in which to believe." [1]
Mission Statements play an important role in our ability to establish and maintain an organization's culture. An effective Mission Statement is the basis for connecting all employees with a particular way of thinking about what they do, how they do it, and what the end result will be. I could write an entire article simply on the DO's and DON'Ts of constructing an effective Mission Statement (idea for a future MMM!) but today, the point is that Mission Statements must be more than a collection of well-crafted words. When an organization's employees believe that their work is connected with the Mission Statement, they are more productive, happier, and thus, more engaged.
Just this past Saturday, Melea and I drove down to Poinciana (about 40 minutes Southeast of our home) to check out a potential placement for her mother. (Melea's mother has progressing Alzheimer's disease and needs round-the-clock attention.) When we arrived at the facility, we were greeted warmly by Marie-the owner of the facility. She gave us a brief tour of the facility followed by a thorough discussion of the care that Melea's mother would receive. As we were standing in the kitchen area, I noticed that Marie had crafted a Mission Statement that was posted prominently. The Mission Statement focused on the staff's dedication and passionate for providing a healthy, safe, and enriching environment for those who live there.
By the end of the visit, both Melea and I believed in the Mission Statement too. Marie has effectively assembled a team of people who share in her vision and who carry out the tenants of the organization's Mission Statement on a daily basis. This is apparent both in the words and actions of the staff that we met as well as the tenants who live in the facility.
So how do we keep our teams connected with the Mission Statement? Here are some best practices to ensure that what you've got posted is what actual happens.
⦁ Post your Mission Statement prominently
⦁ Talk about it daily, connecting the Mission to each team's work
⦁ Establish specific, attainable goals that align with the Mission Statement
⦁ Review your organization's policy, procedures, and culture to make sure that it matches with-rather than conflicts with-the Mission Statement
Element Nine: Coworkers Committed to Doing Quality Work
Have you ever met a sloth? They don't do very much. Sure, they might be cute and look cuddly but they simply hang around and don't do very much--low energy, unproductive mammals. That's about it.
Have you ever worked with a sloth? That is to say a co-worker who doesn't contribute but simply hangs around and takes up space? I think we all have. Did that person simply skate underneath the radar, just doing the bare minimum and nothing more? I believe that there is nothing more demotivating than to work alongside someone who fails to do their fair share of work.
"During a career, everyone encounters at least a few of the people who strive to do the least they can do without getting reprimanded. Few factors are more corrosive to teamwork than the employee who skates through life taking advantage of the much harder work of others. This is the reason that the Ninth Element of Great Managing, which is measured by the statement, My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work, is so predictive of a team's output." [2]
So how do we fight sloth in the workplace? Here are some thoughts:
Measure Performance. Find ways in which you can track individual performance in comparison to team performance. Have regular meetings with team members and discuss where they rank. If they are performing below the team average, ask them why and how you can help?
Reward Success. Commission, promotions, awards, and special perks. When we are able to not only measure productivity and performance but reward it on an individual basis, it makes an impact with the team in two ways. First, it lets the person who is working harder know that their efforts are noticed, and two, it sends a message to lower performing individuals that putting forth more effort has its benefits.
Develop the Average Performers. Low performers pull everyone down. It's essential that we have regular discussions with individuals about their performance-whether low, average, or high. Such conversations should be designed to clearly state the behavior observed and the standard that is expected. Leaders should always focus on improving performance as the best option for moving forward.
Purge Low Performers. Once we've exhausted all avenues for improving an individual's performance, it may be time to make a change. This doesn't always mean firing the individual. Oftentimes, transfers to a different role are an acceptable alternative. However, keeping a low performing individual on a team simply because it's the easier option is a bad move. It's always better for everyone involved to move individuals who simply aren't cut out for the role.

[1] Wagner, Rodd, and James Harter. "The Eighth Element of Great Managing." Gallup. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
[2] Wagner, Rodd, and James Harter. "The Ninth Element of Great Managing." Gallup. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
Click here to purchase 12: The Elements of Great Managing on Amazon. More next week!

"When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever."

- Menachem Mendel Schneerson