Friday, May 23, 2014

If You Want To Be Great You Need To Redefine Your Job

What exactly is your job?  No… I don’t mean the tasks you are responsible for.  I mean what is the overarching purpose of your job.

My thought is this…

If you are doing your job based on the tasks you’ve been told you are responsible for, or based on the things you’ve been asked to do, it is impossible for you to be great.  The same goes for everyone who works for you. 

Here’s why I believe that to be true.

Even if you are the very best in the world at doing the tasks of your job, you are still stuck at good.  Because:

Doing a good, or even great job at those tasks is the expectation

Great is only possible when we go beyond the expectations, and take risks.

How’s about an example?  OK, fine...

If the job description for my team Leaders includes merchandising their entire department using the product mix to ensure that they will meet their margin target, I expect them to do just that.  If they do that, they will have met my expectations… Thank you!  That’s it… good job. 

Defining your job by the tasks you are responsible for limits your ability to be great.

So when I ask if you know what your job is, I am asking if you know the overall purpose of your being there.  It will be a very broad description of the part you play in achieving the larger goals where you work.

For that team Leader, the day I hired them I would have told them that their job is to run that team as if it were their own business…  As if every dollar of profit went into their pocket, and every dollar returned, every customer complaint, every team member not trained properly, every spoiled product, every dollar in unknown shrink, was a dollar out of their pocket.  That is your job.  Do everything you need to do in order to run that team as if you owned it. 

We would talk about many of the things included in that broad description… KPI expectations, product quality standards, food safety, customer service standards, team member training and expectations, and a whole list of other things.  At the end, I would make it clear that this is just a ‘starter list’.   For someone running the team as if it were their business, there would be many additional ideas and concerns… driving sales, keeping an eye on our competition, developing team members, making mistakes, when to ask for help… And I always end by insisting that when they have a great idea, they ask for forgiveness rather than permission.  If it were your store, what would you do?  Then do it!  Time for me to step aside and let them do their job.

That kind of job description opens up a whole world of possibilities… a whole world of how to be of great.  Now my team Leader can imagine ways of driving sales, building customer loyalty, beating margin and other KPI targets, and inspiring their team members that I would never think to put into a job description.

Within this general job description would of course fall all of the normal tasks associated with the job, and these can always be written out as before if that’s what you are comfortable with.  The point here is to stop limiting yourself and your team members by describing your jobs with such a narrow scope.

So let’s try another… Let’s hire a porter.  Normally a job description might include sweeping floors, clean up spills, checking bathrooms every hour, emptying trash cans, and a host of other tasks that indeed do need to be done, and are important. 

However, we are limiting our new hire’s ability to be great if we tell him or her that this is the job.  How else could we word an overall job description for this person… this person who probably interacts with more customers than you do?  This person who has the opportunity to see and fix customer problems that we are never aware of?  Porters see the parent struggling with the baby in the stroller, and could easily get a balloon, a snack or juice box, or ask what else they could do.  And if their job description isn’t wide enough… if we have limited their vision, they are not likely to take that chance.   So even a great porter is still only good, because a clean bathroom and dry floors are my expectation.  We all see people cleaning up everywhere we go… do they smile and greet you?  Do they offer help?  If they worked for you would you want them to?

If we give that porter a broad overall job description, perhaps as an example, to include ‘keeping our customers and workers safe and happy’, we allow a much larger range of behaviors.  A porter with that job description might offer to keep the break room fridge stocked with condiments; ask for cases of juice boxes or balloons for kids; sweep up the parking lot when it’s a mess, even though the landlord is really responsible for it, knowing that it reflects on our business; or ask for wipes to keep handy for parents who need them.  That’s the porter I want working for me.

Hiring the right person, and then allowing them the freedom to see their job as much more than the usual list of tasks will help you get from good to great.

OK, fine… you believe me.  So what now?  Just what are you supposed to do?

If you are taking the time to read this, I’ll assume that you care about your job, and already do a very good job at the tasks for which you are responsible.  If you are not currently doing a great job at the tasks you do, that is first and foremost.

·         Now, I suggest you think about your job, and what you would do if your job were your business.  What would you do if you owned the place? 

·      How would you reframe your job to allow the person doing to it achieve greatness?

·      What would you stop doing, and what new things would you try? 

·      What new goals can you come up with?

·      Are there things you can delegate to give you more time to spend on your new ideas?

·      Remember, unless you are the only one who can do it, delegate it.

·      Try thinking ‘what would I do if I were brand new in this job’?  Or alternatively, ‘if I left today, what would my replacement do to change and improve things’?

·      The only way to find greatness is to break out of your limiting job description, whether it is your actual written job description, or simply how you currently think about your job.

·      If you have the ability, speak to each member of your team about reframing their role, and together come up with a job description that will allow each of them the freedom to be great. 

·      Perfection isn’t the goal… building relationships and constant improvement is the goal.

·      Remember that great often means asking for forgiveness, rather than permission.  So if you are giving your team members this advice, you must be ready to forgive them!  They are going to be taking the risks needed to be great.

·      If they are not making mistakes they are not trying enough new things!

And if you believe that in your workplace thinking like that will get you fired, maybe talk to your boss about these crazy new ideas of yours before making any huge changes…. Just in case… I’m just sayin’…

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