Monthly Archives: March 2022

When you stop noticing the cracks


Making Improvements

The longer you leave things the more likely they become the accepted norm, and the less likely improvements happen.

It’s just over 30 years since we moved into our house. There aren’t many things we haven’t changed; the whole layout of the rooms, we’ve added an extension and we’ve extended into the roof space.

But there are some things we’ve been meaning to do almost since we moved here; for example it took us 25 years to get round to putting a sign outside with the house name! And it took us three years to fix a broken tile in our kitchen doorway.

You see, the thing is, the longer you live with something the more you become accustomed to it being that way. We simply stop noticing the cracks. And in the case of the kitchen tile we just automatically stepped over it.

And this can happen in a business too. There can be a gradual decline: the fabric of your building, the morale of your team, the speed of response for a customer. When it’s gradual we don’t notice it.

And once it’s been a certain way for any length of time unless it causes us a major inconvenience we simply get used to things that way, and ignore the improvements needed.

So what are the cracks in your business which could be impacting your teams well-being, their productivity, or levels of engagement. Or impacting your customers’ experience?

Even when you stop noticing these things if they have an impact on your team or your customers you can be sure that they won’t have stopped noticing.

Ask the question

Ask your team where there are ‘cracks’ in your business: in your systems, with your equipment, in your customers’ journey. Listen to their views to flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a great job or impacts the customer in some way.

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

Ask them to suggest better ways of doing things. Not only can this flag up things you may have been unaware of, if anything needs to change or it needs some effort on their part to make improvements they’ll be far more bought in to doing something well if they have initiated it.

The customer experience

Listen to what your team tell you about shortfalls in the customer journey; they’ll invariably spot where improvements can be made.

Many of your team are much closer to your customers than you are and will see opportunities to enhance the customer experience. So ask for their ideas and be prepared to act on them.

Ask your team to make an honest assessment and reflect on how they think customers currently feel at each of these key touch points.

If they aren’t sure ask them to reflect back on some of the conversations they’ve had with customers.

Arrange for each team member to take the customer journey themselves and see how it feels being on the receiving end.

If you’ve done this exercise with your team before, this time allocate team members to different departments to get a different perspective.  When it’s your own department it’s easy to become protective, oblivious to some of the challenges or frustrations customers may encounter. Reviewing another department can help flush out potential ‘blind spots’.

Ask your team to make a note of everything that isn’t quite perfect yet. It doesn’t mean to say you have to fix everything, but you can make a conscious decision as to which aspects you might put to one side for now and which need to be addressed as a priority.

It can be quite revealing what your team pick up; they’ll often spot things you don’t.

Keeping on top of maintenance

Have a system in place for maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. Encourage team members to report problems promptly when the equipment doesn’t appear to be functioning on all four cylinders, or gets damaged, rather than apportioning blame on them for causing the problem.

Have a process which makes this quick and easy. Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.

Listen to what they have to say

Take action before they become the accepted norm.

Unless followed though promptly your team won’t bother telling you next time.

The longer problems are left unresolved, the less emphasis it places on the importance of their welfare or the customer experience in their eyes and the less importance they will place on their contribution to your business.

Old habits die hard

If my kitchen floor is anything to judge by, the longer it takes to fix the problem the longer it takes for people to adjust to the new way. Be patient with your team whilst they get get used to the improvement.

I was still stepping over that broken tile, even after it was no longer there!

Video: Listening to employees

Article: What we can learn from Formula 1

ROI on your training and development

ROI on your training and development

Last week I met with a client as a follow up to a development programme I ran for his management team last year, to ensure they were going to get an ROI on their training and development.

The review was due to happen in December, just 2 weeks’ after the last module. Operational issues got in the way, and with Christmas looming the review was put back to early January. That date came and went with no review.

So, when it came to taking stock of the learning and how it would be implemented it all seemed too far back to remember.

Sadly this happens all too often. Time and money invested in learning isn’t taken full advantage of as there is little or no follow up. Resulting in minimal ROI on your training and development.

Such a waste. Not just of time and effort, but of people’s potential.

In this instance all was not lost. At the end of each session everyone had committed to one action and at the start of the next had shared their actions and learnings. But I know there will have been many ideas that got lost as a result of no review.

How does a business stop this happening?

There will always be other pressing things that get in the way.

But here are 7 things any business can do to get the best ROI on their training and development, and make their training budgets go further:

  1. Get people to make at least a verbal – and even better a written – commitment to at least one action they can take (preferably within the next day or two) as a result of any learning or training, with desired result and timescales. Make a note of these, so you can follow up!
  2. Flush out any potential barriers or obstacles to overcome in order to make these happen. Common obstacles include lack of confidence, too much red tape, time pressures, or conflicting priorities. Better to know about these now rather than later when nothing’s been implemented!
  3. Check what additional resources or support people need. Follow up on these promptly, before momentum is lost, and to avoid sending the message that this isn’t important.
  4. Review their actions and progress made (or arrange interim review if a longer term action). Include a review of learning and actions from training in your regular one to one meetings.
  5. Recognise old habits die hard, so give people encouragement to persevere if at first things take time.
  6. Get people to open up about existing challenges and relate back to any relevant previous training which might help them to find a solution. Coach if necessary.
  7. Make continuous learning part of your culture, so you seize every opportunity to learn from day to day situations – good and bad.

If you only do one thing to getting an ROI on your training and development: Check line managers recognise and take responsibility for their role in their team’s development and helping team members implement training. Ensure they have the skills to do this effectively.

And remember, training and development is an investment, but won’t give you the full return unless it’s followed through.

How to prepare for training

Video: Why team development is important

Creating a Positive Workplace Culture

positive workplace culture

Creating a positive workplace culture.

How can you bring out the best in others and create a positive workplace culture?

As Zig Zigler said “A positive attitude won’t help you do anything, but it will help you do everything better than a bad attitude will.

Many businesses recruit on aptitude, but fire on attitude!

Savvy businesses know exactly what they’re looking for, not just the skills and qualifications, but the characteristics, behaviours and attitudes that are really needed in the person who is going to make that position a success, and maintain a positive workplace culture.

But it doesn’t end there.

I often hear managers criticising a team member’s attitude. “They have an attitude problem!”

What do they actually mean? What behaviours convey someone’s attitude? Often it’s their enthusiasm for the job, the way they support their colleagues, how they talk to your customers.

But, I’m not talking about their attitude, but yours!

How much of their attitude and workplace culture stems from the example you set?

Behaviour breeds behaviour, and everything you do gets picked up by your team. How you talk about your customers, how you support management decisions, your enthusiasm towards challenges, how receptive you are to your team’s ideas and suggestions.

Attitude and workplace culture can be difficult to define. What are the behaviours that convey these?

As an example to demonstrate how not to create a positive workplace culture:

You have to announce a change in an internal procedure, which may not be well received because they involve a little extra work for everyone, including you.

Imagine if the tone of your message, what you say and how you say it focusses on the negatives and uses words and phrases that emphasise the extra work involved. If you make no mention of the benefits or the reasons why you’re introducing the change. If you stress that you are also affected. All these actions could easily infer you have a negative attitude to the changes.

Net result?

They will too.

Conversely, when you focus on the benefits of these changes, and your confidence in the team that they can deliver, your attitude will be perceived as being positive.

If you only do one thing: Always ask yourself “What attitude am I conveying to my team?” Before communicating any message to your team imagine the attitude and behaviours you’d like them to adopt and work backwards to your own attitude and  behaviours.

Related article: One bad apple

Related video: A for Attitude

Employee Appreciation

employee appreciation

There are some things in life we often take for granted. It’s only when they’re gone that we appreciate just how important they are.

Take last week as an example. I was relieved we didn’t suffer power cuts with the storm (particularly when I heard our neighbouring village was without power for 2 days). But then last Thursday we lost the internet; not for a few hours, but days! 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have bothered us, but now we’ve become so dependent.

The same can happen with people in your team. Those steady, reliable team members who just get on with their job, get the work done and help others along the way. Then suddenly, out of the blue, they tell you they’re leaving.

And as you prepare for their departure, you become aware of all the things you rely on from them.

Had you really appreciated this up to now?

Had you ever told them how much you appreciated them?

Friday marks ‘Employee Appreciation Day’

Of course, employee appreciation shouldn’t be limited to just one day, it’s a cultural commitment. As human beings we all like to be appreciated …more than just once a year!

Ongoing, simple but sincere gestures – however small – towards each of your team members that demonstrates you value them, and that their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.

Now, especially after two years of unsettled and changing work environments and all the uncertainty, your team could probably appreciate a little extra recognition for always bringing their best to work.

Of course, it’s so much easier to make the appreciation meaningful when you know what’s important.

We should never assume what our team would like and what’s important to them. If you don’t know what’s important to them…


One of the exercises I often do as an ice breaker on workshops, such as on one of the ones I ran last week, is to get people either talking about – or even drawing images of – an accolade or something they’re proud of, be that in or out of work and something recent or from years back.  Just by getting them talking about these makes people feel good, as well as helping me – or the colleagues they are working with – get an insight into what’s important to them.

I also do a variation of this with managers asking them to draw their idea of what’s important to their teams. Nine times out of ten I get a £, and invariably I get drawings of trophies, and winning, but what’s also interesting is the variety of other ideas and themes that go up too.

It might be pictures of trees and mountains, families and friends, of sporting activities, to name but a few.

Finding out about what people value outside work as well as in work can be a real insight.

Simply asking this question and listening for their answers is just one way to show appreciation.

But, of course the real impact can be felt when you follow through on these insights.

If you’ve never had the discussion, it’s high time you did!

If you only do one thing: Don’t wait until they’re gone to appreciate how much you depend on each of your team members. Tell them now!

Related post: 10 ways to show your team some love

Related video: 5 ways to help employees feel valued