Build a better culture by mastering the small things
Have you had donuts at a company meeting? Were they crusty grocery store donuts or did they who brought the donuts put some effort into bringing a confection of quality? When you are in a position of leadership, culture is not something magical that you pull out of your bag of management tricks, it is you. Therefore, what you do matters. The quality of your donuts matters.
You are your culture. If you bring your people together for an “important meeting” but are too cheap to bring in some snacks, your culture sucks. If you put some thought into your meetings but the quality of how you serve your people in that setting is less than the standards you claim that you serve your clients with, your culture is mediocre. Conversely, just because you bring the most expensive donuts to a meeting does not instantly mean you have a killer culture.
I can recall one of my managers telling me, “Be careful about bringing donuts to the meeting, they will come to expect them.” My first thought was something along the lines of, “God forbid our employees came to expect ten dollars worth of dough every time we pulled them into a meeting.” My second thought was, “Who hurt you.” If you expect that your team will love you just because you bring donuts, you are disconnected with the working people.
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” - Vincent Van Gogh
Developing your growth mindset is accelerated by learning from professionals in other industries.
I find it interesting that the students that teachers are dealing with today in their classrooms are going to be the work force of tomorrow that business leaders will be working with. In this way, our efforts and futures are aligned. Educators must find ways to reach and teach young children from a variety of backgrounds, needs and cultures. Employers must find ways to attract, develop and retain individuals entering the labor pools.
A good friend of ours works in the school system helping with positive behavior interventions. What is a behavior intervention you may ask? Simply put, when a student is having an issue at school and acts out, how do we assist them to a positive outcome?
I would like to point out that first, this is not a deep dive into the behavioral sciences or our education system. This is a dip of the toe into another arena to explore issues, discussions and solutions that may assist us in our own progress. We ran through a similar exercise with an article published with The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) in reviewing best practices in the criminal probation system.
Secondly, opinions, like belly buttons, are abundant. I am sure the reader has their opinions on these matters. If you are willing to journey for a moment into this scenario, I believe you will learn something that will be helpful to your personal and professional development.
Developing the skill to succeed
As a member of the behavior team for a local elementary school you have been trained in positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS). The system has been set up with three tiers of prevention with plans of support associated with the needs of the student at each tier.
Does this sound familiar in the workplace?
As a team we establish our vision and operate out of our core values. For the majority of our team members the culture provides a “universal prevention” that inspires alignment within the team. Those in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) know the feeling of working with “some” who need targeted plans and “few” who need intensive efforts.
Teachers, para educators and staff will have had training with universal preventions and resources for supporting students. When a student has been identified as needing Tier 2 or Tier 3 support, the process includes getting all stakeholders which may include parents, school specialists and professionals who are working with the student together to design a support plan.
To reach our goals as an organization we outline our follow through with these tiers in language such as followed by all (FBA) or key performance indicators (KPI). In the world of PBIS the language they use states that implementation must be practiced with fidelity.
So, let’s take our journey into a PBIS scenario with our eyes and ears open for nuggets of truth that are applicable to our roles and responsibilities in business.
You are called to a classroom to assist a teacher who is working with a student that has escalated beyond their control.
You arrive in the classroom.
The teacher is upset.
There is a small child who is upset.
The rest of the class is unable to be managed properly due to the disruption.
You ask the teacher, “What transpired?”
The teacher explains, “I instructed the class to color a rainbow and to start with the color purple.”
The child declared, “I don’t want to start with purple, I want to start with orange.”
In that moment, the teacher had a choice.
As an important piece of background, we should note that this particular student has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). We may be losing some of you who are starting to think that sounds like a made up issues that simply describes a disobedient child.
How many of you are thinking that this child just needs better parenting, real consequences or any number of common opinions (belly buttons)?
Oppositional defiance, in base terms, means the child will do the opposite of what they are instructed. If the situation escalates, the child will escalate as well. Hopkins Medicine outlines that the scientific community has not unanimously agreed, as with many behavioral complexities, whether the sources of ODD are developmental or learned. Even the health community has their belly buttons in a jam.
Back to the teacher’s choice.
The guiding principle is supposed to be the behavior support plan. All of the stake holders for this student have developed a plan that is unique to the student and has been agreed to by all. Fidelity in implementation is key to PBIS progress.
Developing the will to succeed
The will to succeed is different than the desire to achieve success. As we have discussed before, Vince Lombardi, regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time, has said, “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.”
If we want to develop our will to succeed, we have to clarify our vision and work to get everyone rowing in the same direction. We prepare to win.
At moments like this, our will to succeed is tested. Our will to follow the plan is directly associated with our ability to progress in our process.
The teacher can choose to go with the plan, which in this scenario of opposition by the child would mean they should say, “Do it or don’t,” and then proceed with classroom instruction. Easier said than done in the moment but having the will to succeed means following the plan especially when the plan is tested (fidelity).
On this day, the teacher choose not to go with the plan. This can be a reaction out of frustration, exhaustion or any number of factors a teacher faces when instructing a class full of students.
How often does this happen in a work setting as well?
“I just want my class to move forward smoothly and this child is being oppositional about a very mundane instruction,” would be a natural thought.
So, the teacher engaged, “Please don’t use orange, I told you to use purple. The rest of the class is using purple.”
The student responded, “I don’t want to use purple, I am using orange,” and went on to color more vigorously.
“Look at this student, they are using purple,” the teacher appealed to positive peer pressure hoping to get a better response even though they know the situation was beginning to escalate.
Developing the chill to succeed
As this situation unfolds, the student with oppositional defiant disorder is responding to the rising tension which naturally frustrates the teacher. Teacher knows they should be following the plan, engaging the will to succeed with the chill to succeed in the moment.
“Please do as you are told, you are making a scene,” the teacher states.
Now the attention is fixed on the child which adds fuel to the fire. The plan was not followed. Fidelity misfired and progress is stilted. Please understand this is not meant to pick on the teacher in this scenario, only to point out the disconnect.
We are back to the point where the behavioral support team arrived. Behavior support staff are not better than teachers, they just have a specific area of training to assist in these areas of need.
The behavior support team member says, “We need to clear the room.”
The teacher knows this is in accordance with the behavior plan. In this scenario the child needs space to de-escalate so that the plan can be brought back into play.
The keys to success with positive behavior interventions include understanding the unique needs of individual children, developing relationships, creating personalized plans and equipping stake holders to carry out the process.
Skill alone does not lead to success. All three elements are necessary. As a team, each member needs to have the will to succeed, the chill to succeed and the skill to succeed. We commit to clarifying our vision, executing our plan consistently and holding each other accountable to rowing in the same direction.
The will to succeed.
When working with behavior support it is important to understand that it is a battle of the wills. The end game isn’t a clear win but making progress towards being peaceful and productive. In an escalated situation, a successful outcome will result from an endurance of the will. Long term progress requires clarity of vision and consistency in execution.
The skill to succeed.
Training and development of staff to understand the plan and consistently follow the plan is critical in behavior as well as business. Individuals are unique and the team must work together to clarify the approach, adjust as needed and hold each other accountability to execution.
The chill to succeed.
Humans make mistakes. Whether you are a teacher, a behavior support specialist or a person in a position of leadership, you will make a mistake. The chill factor usually comes from making these mistakes, being willing to discuss our failures and adjusting our effort moving forward. When we survive our mistakes and failures we develop our chill to succeed.
Leaders need to invest in developing skills to work with people if they want to be successful.
This article was featured as part of the monthly Intentional Restorer segment with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine.
Can you name a single team that has succeeded without people?
No people = No team = No success.
Understanding how to work successfully with people is a skill that every leader has to intentionally develop on a continual basis. In a tight labor market, recruiting, developing and retaining good people is essential to success.
P is for People, which is the first P in The Four P’s of Success.
There is no finish line when it comes to working with individuals. Many have come to label these as “soft skills” or “emotional intelligence”. Soft skills are defined as, “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
Whatever you choose to call them, what leader couldn’t use a boost in their ability to interact effectively with other people? Intentionally developing your people skills is critical to your success as a leader and as an organization. You will win when you continually humanize your process.
Where do we start when we want to:
Having an identity as a person in a position of leadership
Who do people work for?
People work for people.
You work for someone, right?
If you are somewhere on the ladder of leadership roles, you likely work for someone and have someone who works for you. Perhaps you have a lot of someone’s who work for you.
If you are a someone who has someone’s who work for you, it’s important that you be the best someone you can be in as clear a way possible.
Having clarity about who you are, what you do well and what you need assistance with creates opportunities for others. Leaders who are confident in their role and abilities can assist others to learn new skills, express their creativity and find their spot on the team.
Your ability to develop a team starts with your effort to develop yourself. Continue that process of clarifying your identity so that you can attract and build with good people.
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while
Developing a clear process for identifying and hiring good candidates
When you are clear on your vision, values, goals and traits as an organization you can seek out candidates who embrace as well as enhance your culture. Hiring is one of the most important aspects of a leader’s job as an individual as well as an essential mechanism for any organization to achieve consistent pursuit of excellence.
Remember that you don’t always control how an employee turns out but you do have control of who you let in the door. Industries that are service based are competing with each other to attract the available labor force. Think outside the box and be willing to train candidates who exhibit core character traits such as:
Make happy those who are near and those who are far away will come. – Chinese Proverb
If you want to retain good people, treat them like good people
Do you remember when you were had an entry level position and you were treated poorly by a supervisor?
What did you tell yourself?
After you told yourself that if you ever had the chance you would knock some sense into them, you probably told your future ladder climbing self that you would never be like them.
“I’ll never be like that,” was your journal entry from that day.
So, here’s the tough question, how would you rate yourself in your effort to not be like that terrible leader? How would your team members rate you?
Comparing ourselves to the worst manager we have ever had is a bit of a straw man. At the same time, often what we swear we would never become can creep up on us and when we stop to evaluate ourselves we are more like that person that we’d like to admit.
We need to constantly be checking ourselves against our vision, values and goals. Are we living out what we say or do we need to spend some time getting back on course? If we have veered away from living out our vision and values this could be a reason why we are struggling to attract, develop and retain good people.
How do we keep ourselves on track with our vision, values and goals?
For more on this topic, check out our video Tips for Recruiting and Hiring More Effectively
When we are not operating according to our vision, we allow office drama to sink our boat.
What are your thoughts on office drama?
Is it inevitable?
Is it preventable?
Do you enjoy hearing the latest gossip?
Are you actively fanning the flames?
Whether you have put much thought into it or not, office drama is costly. A study in 2008 discovered that employees in the United States spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict which CPP estimated as costing over $359 billion in paid hours or the equivalent of 385 million working days.
Are you still a fan (or bystander) of drama in your office?
What is that costing you if each of your employees is spending 2.8 hours or 7 % of their 40 hour work week on office drama? Our organization is a boat. We want our team members rowing together. We want to move water with our oars not be taking water into our boat.
Office drama causes leaks
The calculation above doesn’t even account for the collateral damage related to the fallout from office drama. What would you gain as an organization if every employee in your office could increase engagement and efficiency by 7%?
When we don’t address the leaks, we expend energy plugging holes rather than rowing. In service based industries such as property restoration, organizations are struggling to attract, develop and retain good people. We respond to floods that cause water damage to homes and businesses but we should not be allowing floods of dysfunction to needlessly drain our team’s energy.
Drama that goes unaddressed by leaders leads to water flowing into the boat and resources flowing out of the organization.
We need to intentionally develop:
Aligning your hiring practices with your values
Turnover is a symptom of a leaking culture.
Are you frustrated by high turnover?
You feel the burden of having to continually recruit and train new employees. Beyond that pain there are hard costs for your organization as well as the demoralizing toll of strolling through the graveyard of co-workers past. Poor hiring habits and turnover are energy drains.
The cycle of hiring, training and losing employees is costly.
If you want to stop taking on water start by developing clarity on vision and values. Apply this clarity to the hiring process. Don’t waste your time recruiting people that have skills but are not good value or cultural fits.
While you cannot control everything your team members do once they are in the organization, you can control who you allow on the team. Start respecting the process.
Invest in the process of rowing together
The Blueprint of Success hinges on your ability to intentionally develop your people and your process. You need your people in order have a team and you need a team in order to pursue your vision. When drama starts to leak through the organization, it is important to catch it early before it becomes a flow.
We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to invest in development but somehow we have time to continually plug the holes, pump water from the boat and chase drama around the office. Start the process of facing the facts and making some progress in your process. Nothing is more important to progress than rowing together.
Let us help you build and execute a plan for achieving success in your personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer