Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Introduce a Culture Change to Our Team Part 3… Preparing for Our Whole Team Meeting

 So… You have gone through all of the steps listed in the last 2 posts in preparing for this meeting, and really… all of the other posts on my blog are leading up to this, so read them all if you haven’t already.  I’ll wait…  OK, back to it.  You have met with your apprentices, and talked about the changes they will be making, as well as how they will be supporting the needed culture shift, both in and out of the meeting, right!?  Good.  I would suggest one more meeting with everyone involved to plan out how the meeting will actually play out.  A lot of this will depend on the size of your team, how much of a turnaround you need to make, whether or not you normally have whole team meetings, and if so what they are like. 

As an example, at Whole Foods Market, we had whole team meetings every month, so we would gather between 200 and 300 people at the store every 4 weeks.  Since we had meetings regularly, we had a pattern we tended to follow.  Welcome, and thank you’s, good news and general updates (holidays and whatnot), celebrating individual and team wins, team updates, regional updates if needed, anything that might affect the whole team member base, and we would always end with appreciations.  I have come to believe that these are a great idea, and we’ll talk about this later.

Most workplaces were not built to include a space where that many people can gather easily, so we made due with whatever space we could carve out.  Depending on the store, we might move all of the produce displays to make a large space, or in another store a long thin space in front of the Deli might work better.  This would often leave spots in the back where those ‘disconnected’ team members would gather.  They can make it difficult for those around them to stay involved and able to hear.  Understand that this will likely happen in your meeting, and have a plan to handle these and other disruptions. 

During the meeting I don’t see the sense of investing your time or energy into attempting to get those people engaged in what is happening.  I have found it best to ask them to keep quiet, move on, and have an apprentice make a list of names so you can address this behavior at a later date.  These are doubtless the few people you would just as soon get off your team.  Having one or more of your apprentices stationed near the back can help mitigate the interruptions.  You want to keep this meeting as positive as you can, so please don’t allow your emotions to get you off track.  Poor behavior from some of your team members is not a personal assault on your Leadership or your authority.  The rest of the team will see and hear your emotions during the meeting, so it’s imperative that you go into it energized and positive, and just as important that you stay that way.

If you allow your self to get derailed, and get angry, visibly frustrated, yell, get aggressive, or really just anything other than positive, you will blow this opportunity.  You have this one shot at introducing your desired shift in the culture of your team, with the attention of every team member, and having every one of your apprentices working with you on delivering this message.  We will do everything we can to prepare what you will say, what part your apprentices will play, and how it should flow, and the actual meeting will be all on you.  So… work through whatever resentments you might be holding on to, make any apologies you need to make, and generally get your emotional health in a good place before the meeting.

At this pre-meeting meeting, the one with your apprentices, you will decide how the meeting will flow, how you will introduce the values, if and how you will introduce your team goals, and what part each of you will play.  You will also work on the actual attitudes and behaviors you will focus on at the whole team meeting.  In the big meeting you will be introducing your values, that is, how you want your team members to act, both individually and towards each other.  So… you will introduce a value, say Excellence or Quality, and then you will have to define it for your team.  I’ve found success in defining each value in general terms, and then in terms of actual observed behaviors here at work. 

We will talk more about how to present these later, and for example, we might say:

In the past, it has been acceptable for us to display and sell products that do not meet our quality standards.  Moving forward, this will not be acceptable.   You team Leader and your store team Leaders will be actively checking quality.  We will not only pull products, but also find out who is responsible for those products ending up on the sales floor, and taking the appropriate action.  We should all be familiar with the standards, and if you are not I suggest you take the time to refresh your memory.  If you have any questions about this you can see me or your team Leader.

In the past, is has been acceptable to attend team meetings, only to get lost in your phone or computer, fail to participate, and have a negative impact on not only the meeting, but the morale of the team.  Moving forward, this will no longer be acceptable.  Phones will be turned off before each meeting, and will not be visible during the meeting.  Participation in your team meeting is an expectation when you work here, and each of you will participate, and take an active roll in the meeting.

These are just 2 examples… you will come up with your own list based on the values you came up with, and the behavior on your team.  You should come up with examples that can be understood by the average team member, and behaviors that most team members could be caught doing.  Do not try to use this to address the few team members that you want off the team.  You must use examples that the majority of your team members can connect with, or could see themselves doing.  Otherwise they will feel that this doesn’t apply to them, and they will quickly tune you out.

So… come up with a list, with examples for each value.  I would also suggest coming up with 4 or 5 behaviors you would like to see change, however the number you of examples you choose will depend on your team and how much needs to change.  Then… take a look at each value, and talk about what behaviors would be used to describe that value.  Write them down.  You will need these lists in readable form for the meeting.

I know we talked about introducing your goals, and if you have never had a whole team meeting you will have a lot on your plate.  Getting and keeping the attention of between 20 and 300 people can be intimidating, and requires a thorough knowledge of what you will be talking about, as well as a general sense of confidence.  The decision of whether or not to talk about your goals will depend on how you and your Leadership team see the team as a whole, if you regularly have whole team meetings, and the size of your team.  If you feel your team is on the upswing, you have a very small team, or a team with only a few people who need to go in order to get you to a good place, you might decide to put your goals on the agenda.  If you need to navigate a serious turnaround, have a large team, and you don’t regularly have whole team meetings, you will likely need the entire time for introducing the changes you envision.  This is an important decision, and that’s what this meeting with your apprentices is about… ironing out these details. 

Details like:
Where will you meet?  This will need to be set up far ahead of time.  Talk to everyone who will play a part in making the space happen to get more heads wrapped around working out the logistics of it.  Will you have to rent chairs, or will you expect everyone to stand?  When is the last time you stood still for an hour and listened to someone speak? And after working all day?...  I think you’ll want chairs.  How much time will it take to empty the space, and then return it to how it was?  Who will participate in creating the space?  How will everyone hear you?  Is the space small enough that you will be able to speak to them, or do you need a small PA system?  I strongly recommend renting or borrowing a speaker system (and testing it before hand) if you have a large team or are in a large space.  You may think you can raise your voice and everyone will be able to hear you, and my experience is that your team members will feel like they are being yelled at.  It will not have the same effect as your normal voice coming through a speaker.  People do not like to be yelled at, and even if the words are positive, the overall message will be heard as negative.

When will you meet?  Should you do it right after a shift, between shifts, early morning, or after closing?  Your team members have second jobs, kids, and other obligations, so even if you state that the meeting is mandatory, you will have some who will not be able to make it.  To maximize your attendance you will schedule this meeting as far out as you can… perhaps a month out.  This will give people a chance to make the necessary arrangements to be available for this meeting.  Who will take attendance?  If people cannot attend without bringing their kids, is there any way you can accommodate them?  Can you set up a temporary day care somewhere?  You will have to connect with those who missed the meeting and indoctrinate them later.  You will have to pay everyone who attends, so you will have to work the extra pay into your budgets unless you can cut hours elsewhere. 

If you have a decent amount of people who take public transportation, you will have to take that into account.  Will the busses or trains get people there in time, and/or will they still be running to get people home?  Will you have coffee and donuts to get people a little energy for a morning meeting?

As for the actual meeting, if you plan to meet for an hour, don’t expect to have the whole hour to speak about your changes.  Odds are you will not get started on time, which is why I suggest a dry run with the PA, and having as much help setting up the space as you can.  Start the process as early as you can in order to get started as close to on time as possible.  Use your apprentices to round up stray team members and get everyone’s attention.

As I talked about before, you may want to station a couple of your apprentices at key spots, probably in the back of the space, to move those disinterested folks in closer, and keep the talking to a minimum.   I am going to suggest something that has worked to some extent for me, and will not always work.  If you haven’t been focused on building relationships, and don’t really know your team as well as you should, try to refrain from judging those that you have seen as ‘troublemakers’.  Stay with me for a minute… at least hear me out.

If you are anything like me, you probably have a pretty good idea of who to expect you will see at the back of the meeting, not paying attention, and talking enough to distract those around them… you do don’t you!?  Now, I’ll also bet that at least one, maybe more of those people have the makings of a good worker, if they would only care and apply themselves, right?  So here’s what I’m proposing… Up to this point, a lot of people have failed them.  Maybe their parents didn’t know how to prepare them for life, how to support them in school, or how to coach them to be successful at work.  Past boss’s, including you, have failed to get to know them and build relationships with them, trust them, train them properly, value them, allow them to make mistakes, and generally believe in them.  These are people just like you, who unfortunately haven’t had the same advantages you’ve had… until now. 

It starts with you.  You will be the first boss they’ve had to talk to them like you respect them.  You will speak to them individually, and privately, and honestly recognize the potential you see in them, and ask them for help. 

There is a key here… I believe that Leadership is Influence.  And… we are all influencing others, every minute of every day.  Did you ever notice how if you hold the door for someone, the person behind you is much more likely to also hold the door open?  If you let someone merge, they are much more likely to then allow someone else to merge.  If you are positive, and solution oriented in a meeting, the whole group will be more willing and able to be the same.

These people we are talking about, are influencing those around them without even knowing it.  They have the potential to have a very positive impact on your team.  You will explain to them that you can see the value in them, that you know you haven’t been the best Leader, what the meetings have been about, and what this coming meeting is about.  For the ones in which you see Leadership qualities, explain to them how few people have those qualities, and how you will help them develop them.  You would love to see them move up and join your Leadership team, and you will help them along the way.  Explain the qualities of a team player, and what they need to do in order to show those qualities.  Don’t just focus on the negatives. and point out all of the things they do wrong, or you will almost definitely not get the results you want.  Let them know that you believe in them, and you will be scheduling meetings with them to talk about their goals, and how you can help. 

If you get any kind of positive reaction, or interest in anything you are saying, that’s great!  You just started the process of building a new Leader.  And… understand that it’s going to be tough for them to break away from their old behavior, and the other people in the back of the room.  Peer pressure doesn’t end when we get out of high school.  You need to ask for their help.  Say it with me… “I need your help”.  Good!  Practice it a few times until it flows out easily and until you mean it.  I want to get back on track and be a better Leader.  I want to get to know each team member, who they are, what they need, and where they want to go, and I want to help them get there. 

You should explain why… why are you making this change?  Are you doing it to make your job easier?  To make more money?  Are you doing it so you can get promoted?  This is probably another blog post all by itself, and for now, I’ll go out on a limb and believe you have good intentions.  I’ll believe that you genuinely feel good when you help people, and you want to be part of a successful team. 

Be ready for the team member in front of you to think you are full of crap.  They have probably heard this story before, and what it usually means is ‘I want to find a way to get you to work harder, while I do nothing for you’.  I’ve had several bosses’ try that on me along the way.  Your team members have been mistreated before, and so you are not asking for them to fully believe you.  You are explaining what you will do, why you will be doing it, and all you are asking is that they believe it when they see it.  All you are asking for is a chance… for them to suspend their disbelief long enough to see if you walk the talk.  They may ask more about why you are all of a sudden deciding to ‘meet with us’ and ‘what good you think that’ll do’.  If you are not ready to answer these questions, really any questions about this change you want to make, you are not ready to make the change.  Do not pass GO, and do not receive $200!  You have more work to do on yourself before you can make these changes to the team, so stop right here, and do some more work with your therapist/mentor/coach.

Boy that was the long way around, wasn’t it?  In a nutshell, talk to the troublemakers.  Identify the ones with potential, explain what’s going on, and ask for their help.  You will get through to some of them at least, and your meeting will be a little less noisy.   And if you want it to work, you have to take the long way too.  There are no shortcuts in Leadership.   Hmmm…

So… I’m sure that there are important details I’ve forgotten to talk about in preparing for our whole team meeting… please help us all out by adding your $.02 in the comments.

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