You can't maintain your competitive advantage without getting and keeping your people on the same page, passionately committed, and mutually accountable. Simply put, you can't maintain your competitive advantage without building a great team.
Why? Because businesses live and die by the people who work for them. You simply can't have a great business without building a focused, committed team.
What I'm going to share with you is important - LITTLE KNOWN - stuff. These are the conditions you your business' potential. Failure to set up these conditions will hamstring your company's efforts to grow and prosper.
So, what conditions create a great team? Glad you asked. But first a brief background on where this stuff came from.
The insights presented today come from a friend of mine who could politely be called a mad scientist (he has been called many less polite things). He has toiled in the academic world, researching organizational performance and adaptability for over 35 years. Virtually nobody outside of the academic world has ever ATTEMPTED to read him.
I say attempted because Ken Mackenzie is a very difficult read. It took me YEARS of working closely with him before I fully understood his model and its implications for real world (for example: we have some proof that applying Ken's model to schools would dramatically improve student learning!).
Yes, Ken is a difficult read but fear not. I'm going to boil it down to a simple gut-check for you. Let's get on with it.
Your business is either progressing or regressing. Six conditions determine which direction you're headed and whether your team can succeed over the long haul.
Condition #1: Set Clear Direction
Your team needs to know where you're going and how you're going to get there. Your employees need to know your strategy. They need to know your priorities. They need to know what must be done and how to get it done.
Think meeting these six conditions is easy? I'm here to tell you that few contractors meet even this first condition - and it's the easiest of the six.
They probably don't meet it because they confuse goals with strategy. Pocketing a lot of money is NOT a strategy. That's a goal. A clear strategy would be laying out HOW you're going to pocket a lot of money.
Condition #2: Create Clear Structure
Every member of your team needs to know his role in the operation AND everyone else's role in the operation. He needs to understand how all the parts and pieces come together to make the business run right. This includes limits of authority, reporting structure, and task responsibilities.
This is why job descriptions and organizational charts can be so effective at improving overall performance. They tell individuals what they need to do and what they need to not do for the team to reach its goals. Once that awareness is created, far fewer errors and omissions occur. Cracks are eliminated.
Condition #3: Install Clear Measurement Systems
Ever member of your team needs to understand how success is measured: for themselves, their crew or team, and the company. Clear performance standards must be set and communicated. You need to have systems in place that report performance back to your employees so they can monitor progress.
Basically, inspect what you expect. Remove the covers from their eyes so they know where they, their team and the company stand.
Condition #4: Sets Goals & Demand Their Achievement
At first pass, this is kind of a no-brainer. If your team didn't achieve its goals, your company did not succeed and every one lost.
This condition goes way beyond whether THE GOAL (making $$$$) was met. It reaches back to the goal setting process, planning, and accountability.
Your team should be using goals to drive superior performance, provide a little stretch to its effort and give it something higher to shoot for than what can be achieved by average effort, skill and commitment.
Goals need to set and met systematically. Plans need to used to ensure goal achievement. People need to be held accountable for meeting their goals. Every member of your team needs to understand and buy into the goal setting process and be committed to achieving the goals.
Condition #5: Commit to Results Oriented Problem Solving
You need to create a culture where every member of your team strives to improve your business' competitive position. That means improving efficiency in the field, reducing estimating errors, and perfecting the lead generation and sales processes. It also means pushing decision making as close to the front line as possible.
Projects and sales opportunities are too complicated and fast changing to force all decisions back to the office. The front line people must have some leeway to make timely decisions. They must understand how decisions are properly made. They must have access to the information needed for a sound, well aligned decision.
Condition #6: Value Your Employees
I repeat: you can't have a great business without building a great team. This is a stumbling block for most small business owners. The ego that let them, forced them, to set out on their own gets in the way of team building.
Small business owners often make the foolish assumption that workers are a necessary evil. In their hearts and minds, they devalue their employees. That attitude ends up revealing itself to the staff, de-motivates them, and gives them reason to either:
1. Find greener pastures.
2. Turn into ROAD warriors (Retired On Active Duty)
Turnover is damaging enough. The cost of unmotivated workers (ROAD Warriors: Retired On Active Duty) is far higher.
Owners who devalue their employees suffer high turnover and a foot dragging work force. Owners who treat their employees with respect end up with an easy-to-manage team that consistently outperforms the competition.
Highly successful owners understand that their role is to capture the creative energies and passion of their people. You can't do that when you view and treat workers as interchangeable parts.
When I met Ken back in 1998, two things struck me immediately.
1. He had developed a model that was amazing and universal.
2. He spoke in a way that was foreign to anyone else on this planet.
During that time, we delved deep into the applications and implications of his findings. We uncovered the underlying cause of many familiar symptoms suffered by teams, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
Unless you are a one-man shop, the information contained herein will apply to your business. The 6 conditions apply equally well to a small field crew or a large company.
When you read through them, you may have said "Duh. Knew that."
If you already knew that these were non-negotiable conditions, why do you violate them? Why haven't you created a culture that breaths life into these 6 conditions?
The point I'm trying to get across is that without creating these six conditions in your business: your people will not make the right decisions, they will not work hard, and your competitive advantage will disappear.
When I first visit with a company, I immediately check for two things: (1) whether they are producing adequate leads and sales and (2) whether they have established any of the 6 conditions for long term success. These are the two most important issues to address.
Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.