Friday, April 4, 2014

How to Introduce a Culture Change to Our Team Part 2… Starting With Your Apprentices

So… we have our list of goals, a shorter list of goals we are going to focus on now, and our list of values.  Our job now is to present our body of work to the team as a whole.  The purposes of this endeavor are many, and all of them are important. 

We need to change the culture of our team.  We allowed a culture to develop that was not of our choosing, and we need to get things back on track.  We are now hiring the best people since we learned how in the series on hiring… starting here; and taking the time and energy to indoctrinate them.  All of that will count for nothing if we don’t focus enough energy on changing the culture of the team.  The culture is how the team works, the habits that we develop, and why we do the things we do.  Your list of values will help bring about this change, as you introduce them to the whole team as ‘what will be important moving forward’.

As an example, let’s work on a few values to see how we might present them to the team, mkay?  Let’s say we chose teamwork, punctual, self-responsible, and quality… you may have chosen more, and I’ll be writing until next week if we don’t limit this somehow.  Every list will be different, since every team is unique, and each team will have a different starting point.  Work on the basics first, in order to get a solid foundation.  If you already have good behaviors around basic values, go for the next level.

For our goals in this example, let’s assume that we have a fair sized team, so for our goals we have chosen ‘reduce defects by 10% by the end of the 2nd quarter’, ‘increase sales comp by 5% by the end of 2nd quarter’, and ‘reduce injuries by 50% by the end of 2nd quarter’.  Depending on where you are right now, these might be very aggressive, or not nearly aggressive enough.  And they are just our examples so we can talk about how to introduce them to the team.  Don’t get hung up on any of the examples I use.

If you’ve been reading along, you know it’s about time for the usual aside…

I have experience changing the culture on more than a few teams over the years and, at least in my experience, there is no one perfect approach.  A lot of what you do, as well as where you spend your energy, will depend on what needs to change on your team.  There are a few things I think everyone will need to do.  I will likely leave out some useful points, so please add in your thoughts in the comments.  

The culture shift that was probably the most difficult for me was also the most successful for a couple of reasons.  My team Leader at the time was a terrific Leader who made is look so easy.  She exemplified most every quality that describes a great Leader, and I learned so much from her.  We started by meeting with our team Leaders; so for you it might be supervisors, shift leaders, key holders, you know…  In this case we needed to make drastic changes to a stagnant store, so while we did not have a goal setting meeting with our apprentices, we did take several of our team meetings to prepare them for the changes we felt were needed.  We felt that we needed to almost start from scratch, and instill the basic qualities of a team player into every team member and team Leader.

We not only talked about our reality, but also showed charts and graphs to illustrate the stagnant sales in this store, to get us all on the same page in understanding where we stood.  We also talked about the habits and attitudes that led to this condition, and how they were no longer going to be acceptable.  We found it necessary to have individual meetings with each of our team Leaders in order to address the issues that each of them had.  In these individual meetings it was easier to speak openly about how the attitudes and actions of each team Leader led to the current conditions, and what changes we needed to see. 

By the end of each meeting we had a written document that summarized what changes had to be made by this person, what commitments we had made to each other, and any dates if appropriate.  We all agreed to these items as written, and we all signed off.  The changes we talked about were not open to discussion, and we did not debate what needed to change with any of our team Leaders.  We were of course, willing to talk about what our team Leaders needed in order to make some of the changes.  The behaviors we were talking about were ingrained both in the Leaders and their team members, and we did not expect the store to change overnight.  Part of the agreement was for the team Leaders to model the changes we needed to see in the store team members, as we thought this a key to getting team members to see that we were all standing together.

For example, we had some Leaders who avoided conflict at any and all costs.  We agreed to coach these Leaders with conversations they found difficult, and offered to sit in, as a moderator, for support and guidance.  Accepting our help with this issue was optional, and making the needed changes was not.

Quite a few of our Leaders lacked emotional intelligence, and they proved to be the most difficult to help.  Emotional intelligence is not something that you can be taught… we can help with understanding the concepts, and the actual changes, the work, has to come from within each of us.  Several of the team Leaders were not able to make the needed changes, and we did what we could to help them find jobs within the company where their skills and qualities were a better fit.

We had a few team Leaders who had been in their roles for almost 10 years, and they had grown complacent in every sense of the word.  After our individual meetings, they agreed that the changes had to happen, and committed to doing the work.  However, the way these teams had been allowed to run, for such a long time, meant some severe behavior changes.  We agreed to sit in on the team meetings to help the team Leader communicate the changes, help the team Leader answer team member questions, and show our complete support for the changes. 

The point of all of this is that while we needed a commitment to some pretty serious changes from our team Leaders, we also had to commit to helping them communicate the changes, as well as help them develop the skills and qualities their past Leaders had failed to help them develop.   Yes… the failure here was the failure of past store team Leaders.

So… where were we?   Yes…

Back to your team… we were lucky enough to have our Leadership group develop our values.  There are probably at least one of two, if not all of your apprentices, who have attitudes and certainly behaviors that have to change.  You will meet with all of them, and have these meetings individually, so you are all able to speak openly and honestly.  Since the apprentices went through the goal setting and value meetings with you, they will likely be more ready to hear about making changes than if they had not been involved.  Still, my experience, and probably yours, is that people find it very hard to change their attitudes.  Behaviors are one thing, and attitudes take a pretty big shift in order to change.  Since these apprentices are trained, at least in the skills of the job, and know your expectations, you should do your best to help them make the needed changes.  It will be a while before you will have another team member ready to take over a supervisory role, and helping a current team member meet your expectations is always more cost effective than hiring a new one to train and develop.

For attitude changes, give them a book like The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living , or maybe Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life , since these books are really all about our attitude towards life, and both of you read the same book.  That way your can discuss what each of you gets out of it, and will be able to judge the apprentice’s progress, or lack thereof.  Just remember, your apprentice might not have the time to read as much as you, read as quickly as you, or might need an audio book.  I’d suggest meeting with them weekly, at least for 30 minutes or so, to talk about how they are making the changes you talked about.  Even if they are capable, and committed to making the changes, they will still need your support and guidance.  You may want to work some shifts with them if at all possible, as this will show the team members that you fully support the apprentice and the changes they are making.  Push back from the team will be a big hurdle for them, and your support, both verbal and simply being seen working with them, will go a long way towards shutting down any rebellion, and creating your new culture.

Each of your apprentices will have their unique challenges, as well as some they have in common.  If they all need to be more positive, for example, I might talk about this when we all meet together, so they can share their struggles, what has been working for them, and not feel as if they are alone in this.  Wait… you do have regular meetings with your apprentices… your Leadership team, right!?  Well… you will, starting now.

While you are meeting with each apprentice, you will also talk about how they will be supporting the needed culture change in the actual meeting.  They will not necessarily know what to do, so you will agree on what role they will play, depending of what each of them is capable of doing.  A brand new apprentice who is just starting to develop his or her Leadership skills and confidence will not be able to provide the same type of support as a more experienced apprentice who has been working with you for some time.  While each will play a slightly different role in the meeting, each is just as important in their support of the changing culture.

Wow!  1800 words already and we’re still not at our team meeting. Ok… next post we’re gonna do it.  Maybe…  probably not.

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