The owner of S and Company knew that the Management Team would face challenges while executing the ambitious Christmas in July goals that had been laid out in the meeting unless they could change their methods of operations and working with their teams. The production team’s expectations of the managers were not necessarily the actions and activities that would promote business growth.
All but a couple of the managers had been in their roles for a number of years, long enough that it took a lot to get them excited. They maintained more than motivated. Growth came primarily as a result of their team’s production, even though they were quick to take credit for the growth.
The producers were a fairly independent group. About 40% were seasoned professionals who needed little from their managers until they ran into a problem. The next tier, about 30%, had been in the business and the company 2 – 3 years and would remind you of teenagers with their behavior. Another 20% were newer with two years or less under their belt and the remainder would be consider new.
Very few, if any, of the producers had reached their potential and each had needs that the manager should be able to leverage to help them and the business grow, The ones who would probably benefit the most and bring the greatest return on invested effort were also the most difficult to work with. They were in the 30% group and had just enough experience, success and tenure to think they had outgrown the manager’s ability to help them. The managers felt little love from this group and, in general, felt if they came to the manager it would be because they had a tough problem or wanted their compensation increased.
Compounding the challenges that existed in the company and the marketplace was timing. It was the middle of summer. Summer vacations, the lure of summer events and family commitments added to the breather many wanted to take after working hard through the spring and early summer busy times. It is always difficult to start an ambitious initiative in the summer.
The owner knew that he needed to really change things to make this work. He hoped that the behavior he was modeling would transfer to the managers, but knew that the group they would use these skills with would be the new and newer producers who still allowed them a pedestal. He decided to turn the tables.
He decided to create a contest in which the production team would stretch their managers by giving their manager points for positive and productive work with the producers. He asked for two representatives of each production tier to meet with him and be the courier of the information back to the producers and act as a leader in this project. He told them about the goals, with the largest being that everyone would grow as they achieved. He knew that spreading responsibility and roles for the short term would bring great results.
A point system was designed so that any producer could give four points to the managers score card for a growth activity which included strategy and planning sessions. Three points for proactive group activities which could include great meetings, lunch and learns or marketing activities. Two points would be given for standard training and/or coaching and one point for problem solving. Managers could also be given a negative point if it was felt that they were not leading, not available (business hours) or several other items that the production team voted to put on the list. A reward was set for the winning manager and team. To win, managers would need to have not only the highest point count but also had to have points awarded by each person on their team.
The managers and representatives worked together to present the contest and goals at the next meeting. Producers liked being able to help their manager gain points to win and everyone seemed to be excited. The peer representative changed the tone from top down to working together.
The managers each stepped up their game as they could not control points being given and did not know where they stood. Skills and ideas that had gone dormant were brought new life. Producers were involved and finding new value in their manager and the atmosphere was great to drive production. It was a great initiative with everyone having the opportunity to win. The changes were definitely the best gift delivered through Christmas in July and the owner knew that these would bring dollars in December.
The owner was pleased with the process and initial enthusiasm, but knew that there was one other group that had to be brought on board. If the operational staff and core support teams were not a part of goal, they could potentially be the wet blanket. The next post will tell that part of the story.