Monthly Archives: February 2021

Continuous Improvements Can Make a Big Difference

continuous improvement

Making small continuous improvements all add up and can make a big difference

Here’s a perfect example of continuous improvements. Back in the 1950s Formula 1 pit stops used to take in the region of 67 seconds. Now they take a only 2-3 seconds.

How have they achieved this?

By finding ways to make incremental changes, and refining the process.

Can you imagine if they only worked on finding and making those changes once the season started? They certainly wouldn’t wait until the first race to be making any changes.

But as we wait for announcements of a timetable for the end of the lockdown, there’s still time to take stock and review where improvements can be made to systems, process, and skills in your business. Once everyone tries to get back to full productivity there simply won’t be time.

But this might well involve changes for team members too. And people generally don’t like change, particularly when you’ve been doing a job the same way for years.

One of the objections you often hear is:

“But, we’ve always done it this way”

Can you imagine if Formula 1 teams took that attitude?

There’s a multitude of reasons why people are reluctant to change. And it’s not an unusual response to be wary of change. Whilst some might rise to the challenge you’re just as likely to have people who’ll resist any change to the norm.

However, I’m sure you already recognise, people will be returning with mixed emotions.

One way to help them prepare is to get them involved as soon as you can (without infringing any furlough rules).

Getting your team involved in this way has 3 benefits:

  • It gets them involved early on, and gives them a focus.
  • It taps into their perspective, which may highlight things you were blissfully unaware of
  • Because they’ve suggested them you’ll get far more buy-in to implement any changes that result

So, ask you team to come forward with ideas, suggestions, recommendations of where small changes can be made. Maybe simply shaving 30 seconds off a task that’s done repeatedly, freeing up valuable time to spend elsewhere; reporting equipment that needs repairs or upgrading; refining a systems that misses important steps, or need adjusting to reflect new procedures; removing a bottleneck, or simply devising a checklist or SOP for a routine task to make it easy to achieve consistency.

Be aware that when a task has been done a certain way for any length of time, unless it causes a major inconvenience people simply get used to things that way. Flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a brilliant job or impacts them, their colleagues or customer in any way.

This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.

So, ask:

What would they improve if they could? To help people feel comfortable to make suggestions ask questions that allow them to take off the blinkers.

Such as:

  • What would you do if it was your business?
  • What would you do if we had an endless supply of cash?
  • What would you do if you had a magic wand?

Although all these questions might result in ‘pie in the sky’ ideas, nine times out of 10 you’ll end up with some ideas you can use in some way.

Your contribution

During the lockdown you’ve probably noticed a few things yourself. If you’ve carried out some tasks you’d normally have delegated to others in your team you may have come to realise that they’re not as straight forward as you thought…

Maybe the system is cumbersome, the equipment used doesn’t function as well as it should, or the process simply doesn’t deliver the result you want.

If it has,  you might be left wondering “Why didn’t they say anything?”

When you perform a task every day or every week you probably don’t notice when it takes longer than it should, or doesn’t work as smoothly as it used to. It’s a gradual change so simply fail to spot it. Which means that bit by bit it gets worse and worse and we’re blissfully unaware.

If this is the case, share your findings with the team members involved, but let them help to come up with a solution.

The more you involve your team in finding ways to make improvements, the more you’ll work towards a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Take Action on continuous improvements

If you only do one thing: Invite your team to put forward suggestions on improvements, however small.

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
Mark Twain

Related blog post: When you stop noticing the cracks

Related video: Listen to your team



I didn’t have time

I didn't have time

How often do your team tell you “I didn’t have time to do that”?

Now more so than ever, with extra demands on your team with additional safety procedures, you’ll probably hear “I didn’t have time”

Irrespective of Covid precautions, how often have you asked someone to complete a task only to discover some time later that it’s not been done because they tell you “I didn’t have time”?

I’m sure it’s happened to you, and I’m certain your managers and supervisors hear this ‘excuse’ all too frequently.

And no doubt at some point you’ve been the one saying “I didn’t have time”!

 

Time Management & Productivity Masterclass

If this is you, then join me on the
Time Management & Productivity Masterclass
on Wednesday 24th February

 

In fact, it’s one of the biggest barriers I come across when I’m helping businesses make improvements either in their customer service culture or with management development; i.e. when people believe they don’t have enough time to devote to the actions they know they need to take.

It can be very frustrating for anyone when they know what’s expected but they feel under pressure to do the task to standard. And when they feel under pressure one of four things can happen:

  • They simply don’t do the task in hand
  • They do it, but cut corners in that task or try to make time by cutting corners elsewhere, either way resulting in silly mistakes or not completing either task to standard
  • They drop another task to make time
  • They complete the task but only by having to put in extra time, which puts them under duress

In a previous blog I shared some tips on helping people get going on overwhelming tasks, but what if it’s simply routine recurring tasks which aren’t getting done?

If you or your duty managers are hearing “I didn’t have time” from any of your team it’s quite possible that the person doesn’t see the value of the task in hand, in which case it’s important you highlight why it’s important.

However here are 5 other considerations to help you see that the task gets done:

1. Conflicting priorities

Assuming people in your team now have additional duties since returning to work, what tasks have you dropped to make way? People who have been doing the same job for years, will no doubt have a set routine and tasks they’ve always carried out, and unless they are clear which of these are now a lower priority, they’ll very likely feel the need to carry on with these.

If these are tasks in which they’ve always taken a pride in doing well, these may be things it’s difficult to drop.  Telling them not to bother with It any more can give the impression these tasks weren’t valued, or the standards they’ve maintained aren’t appreciated. So tread carefully.

If team members report to different managers on different shifts, ensure each and every manager is placing the same level of importance on each task.

2. Reactive tasks, distractions or interruptions

All too often important tasks can take a back seat due to the number of re-active tasks people have to deal with.

As with the overwhelming tasks discussed before, https://www.naturallyloyal.com/how-to-beat-overwhelm/ help team members schedule time for important tasks, which might mean that others in the team have to be the ones dealing with the reactive tasks at that time.

Distractions can of course come in the form of time wasting activities such as extended breaks, too much socialising, or running errands for people that have nothing to do with their responsibilities, in which case it may be necessary to go back to the importance of the task or review conflicting priorities.

3. Takes too long

If you believe there should be ample time to complete all their tasks, it’s worth analysing how people approach their tasks and if any (or all) are taking longer than they should.

Are they approaching the task in a round about way? If so maybe some retraining or guidance is needed. Or their expectation is for perfection, above and beyond what is really necessary. Are they disorganised so have to keep to-ing and fro-ing to gather the tools or resources they need for the task?

4. Poor systems or equipment

Tasks can take longer than they should (or simply be put off indefinitely) if people have tools or resources that aren’t up to the task. (see previous post on Spotting Problems). 

For example:

  • Computer systems that are slow, too complicated, don’t integrate with other programmes, or simply no longer fit for purpose.
  • Processes that require staff members to go back and forth, due to the layout of the workspace, because they don’t have enough space in their stores, or don’t have access to all the information they need when they are planning or preparing.
  • They don’t use a checklist, so it’s easy to forget things and so have to go back for them

5. Bottle necks

If your team members are dependent on others – colleagues, suppliers or customers – are these causing bottlenecks in the process?

For example, if someone can’t finish a task until a supplier has delivered one of the tools or resources for the task, and this doesn’t arrive until minutes before the end of their shift, that might leave the task incomplete when they leave. So the issue here is more to do with when orders are placed or delivery times with the supplier.

Take action

If you only do one thing. Next time someone tells you they have not had time, ask questions to analyse if it’s down to one of the above reasons.

Related video: I didn’t have time on YouTube

 

Time Management & Productivity Masterclass

If this is you, then join me on the
Time Management & Productivity Masterclass
on Wednesday 24th February

 


Care for your team

care for your team

What do you do to show you care for your team?

After nearly 36 years of marriage (to the same person!) I feel we must be doing something right. I’m sure like most married couples, we don’t declare our undying love every day of the week, but we still know we’re loved and cared for.

Just like in a successful marriage, unless your team feel loved and that you care about them they are unlikely to care much about you. Or your business or your customers.

And when you don’t see your team from one week to the next it’s easy for them to feel neglected, uncared for or unloved.

As it’s Valentine’s Day later this week, instead of a dozen red roses, here are a dozen ideas to borrow from a successful marriage to show some love and show you care for your team.

1. Something in common

It can be tricky maintaining a relationship when you’ve got nothing in common.

In the workplace the one thing you can have in common is a shared purpose; something you really care about, which energises and excites you, something your team care about too.

When you and your team have clearly defined purpose, it connects you, provides structure and shared goals.

Bear this in mind when recruiting, as if this isn’t important to them you’ll end up with a mismatch.

2. Know what’s important

Recognise there are things which may seem insignificant to you but can mean a lot for others. Understanding what these are means we can attend to these things, even if they’re not important to us.

Take time to talk to your team members to build relationships and show an interest in them as individuals.

Get people talking about an accolade or something (or someone) they’re are proud of. Just by getting them talking about these make people feel good as well as helping to get an insight into what’s really important to them.

3. Be nice to one another

We all have our off days, but behaviour breeds behaviour so in any relationship it’s easy to let that rub off on others.

So, however you’re feeling, a sunny smile and a cheerful good morning sets everyone up for the day.

Treat your team with the same care, courtesy and respect as you’d like them to show you, their colleagues and customers.

4. Pay attention

When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time it’s usually easy to sense when something is wrong.

Keep your ears and eyes open so you can spot when things are wrong amongst your team. Provide support when it’s needed and be receptive to when it’s required.

5. Listen

Ask your team for feedback on how you are doing in their eyes. Be brave; we don’t always want to hear about the things that frustrate your team, particularly if you may be contributing to the problem! Be open to the truth and willing to listen.

Show you value their opinion; ask their advice next time you’re stumped for an answer. Consult with your team on decisions that affect them; listen to their concerns or ideas.

6. Show your appreciation

One of the simplest ways of showing we care is to say thank you.

Failing to give a simple please when asking for something or a thank you when it’s delivered soon gets noted, leaving people feeling unappreciated.

Remind people of the importance and significance of what they do; everyone likes to know the contribution counts and sometimes just a heartfelt thank you at the end of a busy shift or hectic day reminds them.

Be specific; a thank you and an acknowledgement of a job well done is far more sincere if you’re specific about what you’re recognising.

7. Stay connected

When you’re away from a loved one you probably call, text or do something to let them know you’re ok and thinking of them.

Whether furloughed, working from home or in the business, ensure you keep your team connected – both to you, and each other.

Maintain a routine for daily check-ins, when everyone knows they can connect with everyone else (Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams* will allow you to do this). Stick to a schedule or same time each day, so everyone can plan

Be open, honest and factual. Focus on what you can do for them rather than dwelling on what you can’t do.

8. Freedom

Whilst sharing interests help bring people together, having time away from each other and some different interests allows you some space.

Draw the line between work and family life. Particularly if people live in.

What flexibility do they have around the hours they work to fit in with others at home – partners, children or other dependents.

Play to people’s strengths and demonstrate your trust by delegating control and ownership, which creates a sense of pride

9. Celebrate the good times

Anyone in a relationship who’s ever forgotten a special anniversary knows how much impact that can have.

It’s just as important with your team. Recognise and celebrate team members’ successes and special occasions; be they workplace achievements, personal milestones, or proud moments – in, or out of work.

10. Keep your commitments

Do what you say you’ll do. Making a promise that’s important to someone and then not delivering on suggests a lack of respect.

If you ever do let someone down, own up and apologise. It’s one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it.

11. Have some fun

Any relationship can get stale after a while.

Keep the team spirit alive, and share some fun and positive achievements, stories or anecdotes.

Set up some fun team activities to bring people together, such as virtual horse racing, a magician, or just a simple catch up over a coffee

12. Trust

Knowing you can trust in one another is a key component of a strong relationship.

Being open and honest with your team is just as important. Even when that involves delivering bad news, don’t fluff it up – let people know where they stand.

Many a conflict is caused when there is a lack of, conflicting or confusing communication. Be consistent in your approach, in your messages and in your expectations.

Demonstrate your trust in your team, and help them build trust in you through personal integrity and by being loyal to them.

 

This list of ways to show you love and care for your team is by no means exhaustive, but they’ll go a long way to show others you care about them, so they’ll care about you.

And in this context – care about your business and your customers.

If you only do one thing:

Every offer of support counts. Let people know you’re there for them, even if the offer never gets taken up. You don’t want to be checking in on people every 5 minutes, but it’s always reassuring to know that you’re there to support them when it’s needed – whether that be work-related or a personal issue.

Related article: Show you love your customers

Related video: Your employee journey



Using the Coaching model GROW

coaching model

Using a coaching model in managing performance

In last week’s managing performance masterclass one of the principles we discussed was to identify when your team need support. One indication of this is when they say “I can’t do this” or after the event when they say “I didn’t have time”.

There can be many reasons someone doesn’t perform to standard and these might include

  • lack the skills and appropriate training
  • inadequate resources or tools
  • not enough time due to too much to do or staff shortages
  • they have not been given authority or access to everything they need
  • mixed messages from management about what they should be doing

But despite having everything they need it doesn’t necessarily mean they can do the task to standard, or do it at all!

Why?

Reasons may include, for example

  • They lack confidence in their ability or worried they will make a mistake
  • They are approaching the task the wrong way
  • They are cutting corners or rushing things so making silly mistakes

Coaching may be the answer.

How is this different to training?

With coaching you are helping the team member to come up with their own solutions.

It can help people tap into what they already know and find their own solutions. So if someone is struggling to apply a new skill, or simply making mistakes with a task they’ve been able to do ok in the past, coaching might well be the answer to identify what’s standing in the way and how to improve performance.

Probably one of the most widely known coaching models is GROW.

GROW stands for GOAL, REALITY, OPTIONS and WILL

It is not appropriate for every situation, but can be used to great effect to tap into people’s existing knowledge and experience and develop potential.

It is based on the principle that the ‘coach’ asks questions and draws the answer from the ‘coachee’ or team member.

This leads to increased awareness, better buy in and commitment, increases confidence and is good development.

Goal

Setting the overall coaching objectives and the goals for the coaching session. Goals need to be SMART*. There may two types of goal – one long term goal, then a short term goal for this discussion. Goals need to focus on what will be observed or happening once it is achieved.

In the case of when someone’s performance has dropped the GOAL would be to raise the level of performance to the set standard. Help them identify what good looks like, which might include how if feels for them when they are achieving this. Watch out for abstract words such as ‘confidence‘ or ‘improve‘ as they are subjective; ensure you are both clear what these mean. (see ‘Fluff Busting’ article here)

Reality

Checking and raising awareness of the situation right now. This brings out the employee’s perception of the situation, which can sometimes be very different from the manager’s. It is important that you don’t make assumptions about what is happening, even if you think you already know! It is important to get a full a picture as possible about what is happening to get to the root of the problem.

Options

Finding alternative strategies, solutions, answers. This is usually the hardest part for the manager acting as coach, as it is all too easy to give the answers or make suggestions. This means the employee will continue to be dependent on you to come up with solutions and not have to think for themselves. It is far more rewarding for the employee to come up with their own solutions.

And they will be far more committed to acting on solutions that they themselves have identified

Will

There’s a big difference between saying what you CAN do and what you WILL do!

We’ve all been to meetings when there has been a lot of talk and ideas and then you meet again a few weeks later and nothing has happened. The same will happen following a coaching discussion if there is no summing up of the course of action, and commitment from the employee to take action.

So it’s important to test the team member’s commitment to action by making concrete, realistic plans to reach it. This may involve flushing out any barriers or concerns, so they don’t get in the way and become an excuse for failing to take action.

The GROW coaching model

This format works well for day to day discussions in supporting your team in their work, as well as more formal one to one discussions on performance, objective setting, and development planning. It also gives a structure to use in team meetings for group problem solving.

If you only do one thing:

Next time you have a discussion with one of your team on what they need to do to resolve a problem, before you just tell them what to do, stop and consider if they could come up with the solution themselves by exploring each of these 4 questions.

An alternative version of SMART goals