The Management Team

Christmas in July (Part 4)

Last week in Who’s on Your Team?, we suggested a review of the players who would help you execute the Christmas in July planning and be able to lead the implementation of the plan.  Integrating new energy and ideas through a specialty group must work with and through your existing management team if you want all hands on deck and pulling in the same direction.  Gaining buy-in, involving and holding each member of the management team accountable will bring better results.  The story of S and Company tells how one company decided to motivate their managers.

It was early July and the management team was assembled with the meeting room arranged in U shape seating to encourage interaction, allow viewing of presentation materials and make sure that the presenter was not only a focal point but could see the reactions exhibited by everyone.  The meeting started in the normal fashion rounding up stragglers from phone calls, pre-meeting breaks, conversations and other distractions about five minutes after the time that was designated.  As everyone took their seats, personalities were readily apparent.  There are a total of 22 on the management team each with personality, needs, and an ego.

The owner of the company brought the team together to announce a new business strategy which would change the company’s branding that had been in place for at least two generations.  The change would also bring new tools, systems, opportunities and would create much needed changes in the company.

The meeting started with the usual agenda of updates, issues and opportunities.  When the opportunities section came up, the owner walked to the front of the room.  On the screen behind him, a picture of a Christmas tree appeared.  Underneath the tree were gifts with names of each person in the room on them.  There were also gifts for everyone in the company and others labeled for the people the company served.  The room became silent waiting for the owner to speak.

He asked each to write down what they wanted for Christmas as a gift.  They also were asked to write down what they would want professionally, for the area that they managed and for the people who worked for them.

It took a while as people decided how to answer - a politically correct answer, what their head told them or where their heart led them.  The owner said that they had tried to get Santa involved but since he was already booked, each of them would need to figure out how to get what they wanted.  Each manager was given all of the stats relative to the area that they managed and asked to determine what they would need to do to have the gifts they wanted under the Christmas tree in December. 

This was a surprise as several of the managers were used to dumping problems and challenges on the company in part to cover what they were not doing or change the focus.  The meeting progressed with each person working on their plan, sometimes collaborating with others.  Individuals were called out to meet with the owner in an adjoining room to discuss their “gifts” and plans.  It was both a midyear planning session and a personnel review. 

Near the end of the meeting, the owner came back in with the collective list of what each wanted to achieve by Christmas.  The numbers were posted as well as the goals and it kind of took everyone’s breath away.  It was an awesome but possible goal.  It required that they work as a team, leverage tools and business systems and required high accountability.  The best part was that each person had determined how they would be held accountable.  The accountability aligned with the company’s methodology only now it was their idea rather than company direction.

The finale of the meeting was when the owner brought in the team that had been assembled to bring new ideas and help move the company toward year end goals.  They were introduced as resources to work with the managers to accomplish individual and company goals. 

The owner asked each person to take initiative, collaborate and push their comfort zone to accomplish the goals they shared earlier.  These goals would become the company goals.  Finally the owner asked if they would be willing to share the risk of the pursuit with him.  He offered to a bonus based on exceeding goals with up to 50% of the net profit beyond the goal put into a bonus pool.  Managers who exceeded their goals would share in the bonus directly related to the percentage of goal they and their area exceeded.  Managers who did not make their goal and did not make the company requirements for the area managed would lose 1% of their incentive compensation for each 10% mark where the requirement was not met.  In essence, meeting company requirements would mean no loss in compensation but exceeding goals would have rewards above and beyond the compensation plan.

There was quite a bit of discussion as some were fearful that they had set their objectives too high and others who felt confident they would meet and exceed their goals.

The owner then announced that he would again be meeting with them within the next week to review requirements and set final goals.  The strategy they had created and could refine before the meeting would also be reviewed.  Each month they would meet again.  While there would be accountability the owner would assume a coaching role to help each of them achieve.  Each was encouraged to deliver information ahead so that they would be able to gain the most from the coaching meeting.

Each management meeting afterward focused on achieving the goals.  In the first of December meeting, the owner brought in 22 gift wrapped packages.  Each package had a thank you note and a check for 50% of the additional bonus earned to date.   The packages could not be opened until the meeting was adjourned.  Those that had not reached bonus had a small amount, a gift, to encourage them to push hard through the remainder of the month.

Team spirit was high and the best end of the year strategy meeting the company had ever had was held.  The Christmas in July meeting brought dollars in December outperforming every company in the market and created a leadership training program for the resource team that had been brought in to contribute new ideas and energy.  Best of all, many of the managers adopted the accountability and coaching style modeled by the owner with their teams creating change that would continue through the next year.


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