As most of us sit on our couch NFL Sunday escaping from thoughts of going back to work on Monday, you can’t help but notice the parody of the football team vs. work team. What DOES makes a strong team?
With unfunnel I have been deconstructing issues and flipping things upside down to find a solution. And here I find it works again. It is not about what makes a strong team, it is all about knowing what makes a weak one. Here are some of the obvious.
- The weak link
- Lack of confidence
- Afraid to go big
- No quarterback protection
- Bad publicity disasters
So how does this play out in the workplace? How can you make sure you have these gaps filled on your roster?
When you look at your team and roles, traditional models make the assumption that you are going to hire the best people and retain and train those people over time.
That is not a reality anymore.
The workplace is volatile and there is no loyalty. Not because people don’t want to be loyal, but when you are screwed a few too many times, you start looking out for #1 first (Even if you are logically screwed, meaning they made a logical business decision to cut you out of what you deserve). In your job, if you work hard, exceed goals and are a good team player – that doesn’t equate to a promotion OR professional growth. It’s just the way it is. You were trained and your experience is in that one company – so ANYONE outside the company coming in is going to have more perceived value than you and at a certain point you top out on knowledge.
SAD FACT #1: People in a sense have become FORCED to leave their current job because of professional growth. It seems silly and against everything the “boomer” generation knew, but for businesses to stay competitive… they need new blood. There are talented extraordinary people looking for new jobs everyday, not the losers that we seemed to previously associate with job hunters. This new generation is hungry for new experiences and leadership to teach them (so they can run their own company someday).
According to Career Builder and Forbes, in 2013 60% of Millennials are checking out in three years or less and it takes between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace each lost Millennial employee.
So should you not care and investing in people? No, but you do need to always be thinking of a backup plan. Your Plan B, the people on your bench.
Just like in football, no matter the best intentions, talent or unprecedented drive, people get hurt and the other team could just be better on that day. You need to be prepared.
So what can you do about it? What does the NFL teach us about building agile marketing teams?
The Weak Link
SAD FACT #2: The interview process is always going to be flawed in the fact that your REALLY don’t know that person or their strengths and weaknesses UNTIL they are hired. So inevitably, you are going to hire a weak link. Just one person not working in their “sweet spot” could bring down the whole team. And too many business leaders feel bad about firing this person so they keep covering for their inadequacies, blaming themselves and moving them around trying to find the “right fit.” When you really think about it, this person is probably feeling unproductive and a failure in their job, so be honest and transparent and this person might just leave on their own accord. If not, get them out of a role that is impacting performance and move on. Make sure you have a Plan B.
What do you do if your star quarterback can’t play? No team can rely on just one person, therefore, you need to always have a deep bench. All people have to be accountable and add value to the team. For unexpected injuries, weak links, competitive overachievers and the 1,000 other reasons a person can’t do their job – you need make sure you have a seamless transition to your backup. This is the person you have been cultivating and training to be in that position. This is where that “turnover” plan comes into play big time and everything is documented, easily accessible and people cross-trained, right? No single point of failure… NOT. SAD FACT #3: Most business don’t make this a priority over paying work. You don’t have time to go out and interview and worse, if you hire from a placement firm you are paying top dollar and have slim pick on what’s available. So, do like they do in the NFL, even if it doesn’t make sense – always be thinking about your backup. If not already hired on your staff, you could be scouting competitors and recruiting top talent – just for these types of situations. Join a LinkedIn group to make this easier. That is not being a snake, is being a smart, realistic business leader – understand the value of the team – you wouldn’t have a business without them.
Lack of confidence
When is the last time you say a 0-10 team beat a top ranked team. Pretty much never. Psychology plays a HUGE and under-acknowledged part of strong teams. Take a minute to think, is your team a bunch of rockstars hungry and ready for the next challenge, or do they look beat down, tired and exhausted from the internal politics and drama? If it is the later, you need to up that priority. Throw away the old notion that “people should be happy they have a job.” That is BS. Yes, there are people unemployed, but the circle of top talent has no problem finding work. You should be scared to lose your good people. The amount of time and money to replace them is WAY more than a few starbucks gift cards and individual recognition. The start performer is not looking for a public pat-on-the-back, they are looking for a growth plan, a promise and money. If you can’t give them a raise or bonus, give them unpaid days off. And don’t ignore that non-type A employee. The people behind the scenes are probably setting up that rockstar for success. On a strong team, everyone plays a role. As a business owner, you need to keep that synergy by reminding them how good they are. Dashboards aren’t just for clients and senior leadership, show your team and celebrate their success – and don’t be afraid highlight weaknesses. That keeps up motivation and gives them the secrets for doing better the next time. How about recording your team during a business pitch and then sharing game film pointing out the successes and failures? OK, maybe not. But analyzing behavior isn’t a new idea, one just not practiced routinely in business of the time investment. But can you afford not to invest?
Afraid to go big
You don’t get to the Superbowl for playing a season with incremental improvements and tweaks. There is strategy. The work of the offensive and defensive coaches is to create that strategy and teach the team how to execute. It is about finding the gaps and weaknesses on the opposition and exploiting those match ups. They aren’t afraid to make that big play, they are carefully engineering the setup to create the right opportunity. This takes research, analytics and thinkers across many roles to come of with that ESPN replay that looked impossible. Take some learning from these NFL coaches. Be calculated and aggressive to try things new. Don’t be a follower, be a leader based on maximizing the strengths of your team. Listen to them on where you can come up big. As a leader, your job is to make that happen. Switch budgets from tactics that are trending down (print) and invest in the infrastructure that will allow you to use technology for efficiencies. Build that roadmap and when ready (and not sooner) call that big play, recognize the opportunity and watch it convert. Timing is everything. Take a chance – go big or go be a business failure.
No quarterback protection
You need a strong front line – the people that interact with your customers. One person shouldn’t control the destiny of a team, but each player SHOULD be able to do their job. You need to protect them against brainless, idiotic administrative work and redundant processes. Make sure when they come in to the office, they are actually spending their day doing what you are paying them for. Novel idea, right? SAD FACT #4: It sounds simple but more difficult in practice to get your job done each day. There are so many distractions: unproductive meetings to make people “feel good”, doing the job for a “weak link”, following up on items you asked for 3 times already and people with way too much time on their hands to bug you with a “5 minute request.” It all adds up – to frustration. If everyone just did their job there would be better products developed, better content and less anxiety in the workplace. Think about how you can help make that happen.
According to just-released data by Gallup, only 13 percent of employees are “engaged” in their jobs, or emotionally invested in their work and focused on helping their organizations improve.
Bad publicity disasters
Trying to avoid them should go unsaid… inappropriate acts like wife beatings, headbutts, and illegal actions should not be shared on social media. But who thinks about the impact of this until AFTER it happens. Social media is a risk and it could have a big payoff for your company with a little bit of training. Allow your employees to post business related resources and advice on your business accounts. Make sure they understand the implications of personal actions on the business. It’s all accessible and what a person puts in their social network might be a good indicator of how they will reflect your company. Facebook walls are now part of they interview candidate screening. Be smart and don’t deny that this is the world we live in. Use it to your advantage and talk about it freely. Before a big conference, a few coaching points on appropriate behavior isn’t such a bad idea. See how you can turn disasters into positive viral impressions by just having a timely and clever reaction and involved in real-time communications.
Bottom line, I have found there is nothing logical, predictable or systematic about business. It relies on customers and their needs and inherently, they change their mind. So embrace that and put more effort into your real influencers – your team.
Start by looking at examples of what makes a bad team – and don’t do that. :)