Will the strategy succeed? Is this the right move at the right time? I know we CEOs have all spent many nights pondering these questions and weighing the possible outcomes. Overall, it can
be a complex endeavor.

There are a variety of variables and unique circumstances that come into play for any business, but here’s a simple equation that can be a handy part of your decision-making process when assessing the probability of success for a strategy:

Confidence in our people x confidence in our strategy x the level of coordinated activity = our probability of success

The equation’s value rests on your ability to be honest. Your evaluations need to be fair and realistic to provide the best data. If you aren’t fully confident in an area, that’s OK. It’s about making the best decisions for your company and your people — and that requires honesty.

Let’s look at each part of the equation:

People

Ask: What is my level of confidence in their ability to successfully execute the strategy?

Honestly assess: While we all would like to automatically say we have 100 percent confidence in everyone at every instance, in reality, the percentage may be lower for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the responsible leader is new and relatively inexperienced. Or maybe the team already has a full strategic workload with little excess capacity to engage in a new strategy.

Strategy

Ask: What is my level of confidence in the strategy?

Honestly assess: Not all strategies are created equal. The origins and the completeness of a strategy will determine the level of confidence in the strategy itself. Consider the process and if it was created by the boss, visionaries or tacticians? Is it proactive or reactive?

Activity

Ask: What is my confidence in the level of coordinated activity associated with the strategy? 

Honestly assess: All too often, great strategies and great people are handcuffed by the lack of coordinated activities. Before you can execute a strategy well, you may need to stop doing something else to create the strategic bandwidth to embrace the level of coordinated activity necessary for strategic success.

Now, let’s take a look at an example:

People: Let’s say you have a new leader and a fairly busy group. You decide your confidence in your people under these circumstances is at 90 percent.

Strategy: You have a great go-to-market strategy created by a visionary process. The only shortfall is the financials rely heavily on estimates, so your confidence is at 90 percent.

Activity: You believe the activity level is very high, but it lacks a certain level of management coordination, slowing success. It could be something as simple as an uncoordinated order entry process. Under these circumstances, let’s assess your level of confidence at 90 percent.

So here we go — what is our probability of success? At first blush, it looks like a 90 percent average. That’s an A- or a B+. Sounds good, right?

The reality is different, and here’s what you need to remember: Shortcomings, however small, tend to multiply quickly in business. This becomes clear when we work our equation: 90 percent x 90 percent x 90 percent = 72.9 percent. The probability of success is actually a very low C-. 

We have to make the best decisions we can for our people, and this equation can help us evaluate our circumstances and chart our course.

Joseph James Slawek is the founder, chairman and CEO of FONA International, a full-service flavor company serving some of the largest food, beverage, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies in the world. For more information, visit www.fona.com.

Published in Columnist

As temperatures rise, swimming pools aren’t the only things that will get more use. During the summer months, company leave policies are often put to the test as workers enjoy their hard-earned vacations. 

Paid time off policies, or PTO banks, have become the preferred alternative to traditional vacation plans. A majority of companies now utilize PTO banks, making it more popular than traditional policies that distinguish between vacation, sick and personal leave. Under a PTO model, all leave days are integrated into one pool, so employees can take days off at their discretion when they need them.

Companies of all sizes are adopting PTO policies. For one reason, businesses experience fewer unscheduled absences. Experts cite other advantages to PTO banks as well:

• Ease of administration. The PTO model is often easier to administer because it folds together vacation, sick time and personal leave. Vacation leave doesn't have to be coded differently than a sick day.

• Control over absences. When companies distinguish one type of leave from another, employees are likely to use every sick day granted to them whether they need it or not. With PTO banks, employees tend to save time off to use for vacation.

• Recruitment and retention. Employers are finding that PTO programs can make their companies more competitive when recruiting employees.

• Flexibility. The value of PTO banks is especially vital in industries that operate 24/7, such as the health care industry, because it offers optimum flexibility.

• Diversity. Today, employees celebrate a variety of cultural or religious holidays. PTO banks reflect a company's respect for employees' diversity by allowing them to schedule time off around their individual holiday calendar.

• Privacy. While most employees don't want to lie to their employers, they also may not want to announce that they are chaperoning a field trip or in need of a mental health day. A PTO bank allows employees to take time when they need it without having to explain it.

• Equity. There's a common perception that employees with children are allowed more time off than single people without children. PTO banks level the playing field, because everyone has access to time off based on service, so it's objective.

Despite these advantages, many employers and employees fear the unknown. Employees fear the possibility of an unexpected illness wiping out their accrued days, leaving them with no remaining vacation for a visit home at Christmas.

Employers fear potentially higher costs associated with a PTO policy. While other leave policies allow a payout for unused vacation time in the event of termination, under a PTO an employer cannot distinguish between vacation and sick leave, so all unused time must be paid out upon termination.

So how do you decide whether a traditional vacation policy or a PTO model is right for your company? Like most things, there isn’t one method that works for all companies. Ask yourself whether your company is seeing a problem with excess absenteeism or abuse of time off. If your traditional leave policy is working, there may be no compelling reason to change course.

For companies that want to provide their employees more flexibility, a PTO bank may work better. Not surprisingly, however, proper management is key to ensuring that PTO works effectively. Many companies enforce “use it or lose it” policies and setting carryover limits or accrual caps. Some companies even establish buy-back or donation provisions to allow employees to sell or donate unused days to coworkers who may have a greater need.

No matter which type of leave policy you have in place or plan to adopt, remember this — paid leave is an essential employee benefit, and it can serve as a powerful recruitment and retention tool.

John Allen, is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.

Published in Columnist

You will never get it all done!

My first job out of grad school was managing one product line, no people and a “to do” list that was a mile long.

I remember breaking down to my dad one night, who at that time was a bank executive who managed multiple divisions, hundreds of people and a lot more responsibility than I could ever comprehend. I was beyond frustrated working 70+ hour work weeks yet I couldn’t manage to get everything done, and my to-do list kept growing!

That’s when Dad gave me some of the best advice that I have ever received. He said, “David, they don’t pay you to get it all done. They pay you to get the most important things done.” Wow! That simple phrase changed my life.

Let me clarify by saying that some jobs, entry level specifically, do warrant the employee to get everything done; all phones need to be answered, hamburgers cooked, etc. prior to leaving for the day.

But as we begin to move up the ranks of responsibility we don’t want to take this mentality with us. When we are managing people, places or things, the options of what we spend our time on grows exponentially. We can conduct training, print a new catalogue, go to a meeting ... the list goes on and on.

 

Learn to focus

So many options and requests on our time and soon, we find that we can never get it all done. This is why it is imperative that as we grow in our positions, we learn to focus on the right things.

The power of prioritization is undeniable in terms of your future success and in order to be exponentially successful, you must learn how to differentiate time management from prioritization.

Peter Drucker says it best: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Don’t waste your energy just crossing things off your “to do” list. Instead, spend some time prioritizing. Then pour your energy into the projects and tasks that you have deemed to be the most important things to complete today.

In the early days of Defender, I was a young entrepreneur obsessed with thoughts about how I could grow our business. As Defender grew, our team members were presented with new opportunities everywhere we turned.

While sometimes it was hard to turn away from an opportunity to sell what was presented as the “next big thing,” early on I took a step back to really evaluate our business. Every time we said yes to a new idea or product, it meant more training, more options, more complexity.

 

Stay in focus

Success does create more and new opportunities, but that means we must stay focused say no more often! Otherwise, our team and focus will fragment and slow us down.

I hear so many stressed out business leaders say, “But it’s all important!” However, by definition, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

If you want to be the leader of a high performance, fast-growth business, then your No. 1 job is to figure out what is most important and to "keep the main thing as the main thing."

Still, today I divide my to-do list into A,B,C and D priorities and every morning I write my top three A priorities on a Post-It note, which I carry with me throughout the day as a reminder to keep me focused.

If each day I can get my top three most important things done amongst the chaos of life, I figure I'll have a pretty successful life.

Remember, there will always be more things to do than there is time to do them. You’ll never get it all done and your “to do” list will never be empty. Let this philosophy release you from the stress of trying to get it all done and put that new energy into getting the right things done today.

Published in Columnist

Nothing builds and sustains credibility better for a business professional than when he or she can lead by example.Whether you take the time to chat with new colleagues before a meeting, help out with a difficult project, or are the first to ask the hard questions, you alone are responsible for setting standards and expectations.

As a father, husband and business intermediary, people count on me for advice, leadership and guidance. I found the best way to earn their trust is by setting a good example.

Actions speak louder than words, particularly when your attitude and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Doing otherwise only confuses the people who look up to you.

By incorporating the following practices into your life, you will not only improve the way others perceive you, but you will also feel better about the way you are presenting yourself as a person that others will follow and emulate — the very definition of leading by example.

 

Get involved

While working your “day job” may already be taking up too much of your time, getting involved in industry organizations may be just the thing you need to advance your career and set a positive example for others. I am involved professional organizations such as the Georgia Association of Business Brokers, the International Business Brokers Association, Rotary International and Street Grace.

I have found that getting out from behind my computer can be a challenge.  But meeting new people and talking big-picture about my industry has been crucial to my professional advancement.

Joining professional organizations in my field has given me a chance to do just that. Best of all, most organizations have local chapters so I did not even have to travel very far to get involved.

 

Put family first

Putting family first is something that we all strive to do, but in today’s busy world, most of us have jobs that do not allow for much free time to spend with our family.

I know that trying to put family first above everything else may seem like a mission and not knowing how to do this can make things even harder. Jobs can be a huge part of our lives and sometimes our jobs can get out of hand and make us spend less and less time with our families.

I make it a point to be involved in my children and wife’s lives as much as possible. Taking interest in their hobbies and being an active participant is a great way to spend time with your family.

I am a lacrosse coach and Cub Scout den leader. In these roles I have the opportunity to shape lives and demonstrate to other parents how they can become involved in youth organizations to point kids in the right direction.

 

Look to your community

The best way to stay involved in your community is through maintaining a commitment to make a positive impact in the environment in which you work, live and play. You can gain respect, friendship and pride through community involvement.

One of the most satisfying, fun, and productive ways to lead by example and get involved in your community is through volunteerism.  When you commit your time and effort to an organization or a cause you feel strongly about, the feeling of fulfillment can be endless.

Your peers, colleagues and family members are always watching you and taking notice to what you do. They will see the benefits of being involved in professional organizations, putting family first and being involved their communities.

Owner of the North Atlanta office of Murphy Business & Financial Corp., Reed has been serving clients for more than 20 years in the Atlanta, Ga., area as well as across the country. He is an accredited business intermediary, a licensed real estate broker and has owned and managed his own limited liability company. Reach him (678) 383-4781 or k.reed@murphybusiness.com

 

Published in Columnist

I drop off my clothes at the dry cleaner weekly and the staff is always friendly. A hello, good bye is always said but there are a few things that are missing.

1. A few weeks earlier, I dropped off some clothes and picked up and paid for the clothes that I had dropped off the week earlier. As I was getting out of the car I asked my son to bring in my dry cleaning. He said, “Dad — these clothes don’t look like yours.”

As I took a quick look, he was 100 percent right and two minutes later we were back at the dry cleaners exchanging the wrong clothes…. I hoped. Thankfully after 15 minutes they found my clothes and life was back to normal and my shirts were back with me.

The interesting thing was what the owner said or actually didn’t say. The only thing he said was, “Thanks for bringing back the clothes,” which I thought was very odd. There was no sorry for the mix up… no sorry for any inconvenience… in fact, no sorry at all.

Lesson No. 1: Say I’m sorry. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it isn’t a sign of embarrassment. Frankly it is a sign of honesty and sincerity, and it shows the customer you really, really care about them and their business.

2. In the past few months I have also noticed that my dry cleaner will give me a date/time when my clothes will be ready. Lo and behold when I show up, they aren’t. I understand that you can miss a deadline but when you know you have missed a deadline, say something. they have my phone number and email. Make a call or send a text/email.

Lesson No. 2: Everyone will miss a deadline. Doing nothing, sweeping it under the rug and not communicating is a huge mistake and can only cost your business in the long run!

3. This next one was actually very funny or at least I thought it was funny. I lost one of my buttons on my shirt and asked my dry cleaner to sew it back on. They said, “No problem at all and it will be ready when the rest of your clothes are ready.”

A few weeks later I wore the shirt that the dry cleaner had fixed and noticed the button (on my sleeve) was actually a different color than the one next to it. My dress shirts have two buttons on the sleeve so it is very easy for me to notice. I looked at the bottom of my shirt where there is always extra buttons sewn in and lo and behold, all of the extra buttons are still there. Ok, I will admit I did chuckle a little bit.

Lesson No. 3: Pay attention to details. It is the smallest of details that can and will affect your business the most. Rest assured if you pay attention to details your enterprise has a much better chance to be successful.

Merrill Dubrow is president and CEO, M/A/R/C Research, located in Dallas, one of the top 25 market research companies in the U.S. Merrill is a sought after speaker and has been writing a blog for over six years. He can be reached at merrill.dubrow@marcresearch.com or at (972) 983-0416.

 

Published in Columnist

In nearly every marketing conversation, I am asked how to measure return on investment. It is a fair question, but the answer is not always simple to address. 

ROI, and equally important return on opportunity, are measured differently for most companies and are calculated on factors that are specific to each organization.

Here are some considerations for formulating ROI and ROO:

Establishing marketing goals — Know the marketing outcomes you desire. Are you trying to generate leads, build exposure, get the phone to ring, grow market share or retain customers?

Also keep in mind that marketing goals and sales goals are different. If direct human interaction is not a factor in the sale, they could be the same. For most, this is not the case. Marketing creates the opportunity and sales books the order. They are different disciplines.

Make your marketing goals measurable — in other words, be specific by stating percentage of growth, number of leads, degree of increase in market recognition, increase in market share and percentage of retention.

Understanding tracking — Determine tracking methods for what you want to measure. If you want a hard measurement of increase in market recognition, you can establish a benchmark by implementing before and after research surveys of how well-known your company, product or brand is in the marketplace.

Sometimes tracking can be easy, such as the number of leads generated from Internet advertising or an email campaign. Other times, unless we train customer service and sales representatives to ask how that prospect heard of us, we may never know where that opportunity came from.

Tracking percentage of growth and increase of market share require that we understand current measures as well as the sales team’s impact on the overall result. We need to understand what result we are looking for so the marketing campaign can direct prospects to do what we want to measure.

Calculating investment costs — Determining the cost of advertising, creative development, printing, postage and so on is easy. The more difficult factors are what else you are including in that calculation such as technology costs, staff cost and sales cost including sales tools such as brochures and websites.

Understanding all that you want a return on is a big factor in measuring and managing the expectation for return. Typically the more you factor in, the longer it takes to anticipate a return.

Determining profitability — Cost of goods sold is the typical calculation for understanding what it costs you to produce a product or deliver a service to a customer. How quickly a company will see a return is based on how much gross profit is derived from the sale.

Another consideration is the lifetime value of new customer. If the sale of your product has the potential to generate future maintenance or service work, add-on components, replacement parts, reoccurring revenue and the like, then your return can more readily be met by factoring the lifetime profit your company realizes from acquiring a new customer.

Factoring the sales cycle — What is the typical time frame from when a lead is generated to when a sale is booked (signed, sealed and delivered)?

How quickly you will get a return on investment is largely based on how quickly you can book the new business. If it is a long sales cycle, you may want to engage interim measurements or milestones to ensure your return is on track.

So, what should you be measuring? There are numerous ROI and ROO measurements — I could easily name 25 off the top of my head. You need to determine which are most important to your organization. Choose no more than a handful so that your team can easily manage the tracking and measurement.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. She has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, kborth@greencrest.com, @brandpro or for more information www.greencrest.com.

 

 

 

Published in Columnist

Every year, your company conference creeps up. So, who’s going to plan it? Who needs to go? What does the agenda look like, and what is it we want people to take away from the experience? Set the stage from the beginning with a cross-functional planning committee, determine the key members of your team who need to attend and ensure at the end they have key takeaways.

Planning a meeting is no small task, especially when it involves hundreds, potentially thousands, of people. While meeting planning often is the job function of one person, a cross-functional planning team can have positive effects.

First, it ensures all your departments are represented and that the topics from each discipline will be discussed. Second, it brings perspectives from different people, and with that, new ideas. It also allows employees to get involved and develop new skills they may otherwise not have been exposed to.

Conferences can get expensive, and when you add in the fact that they are often in different states and last for several days, a company has to be strategic about who can attend. It’s important your senior leadership team attends, as those leaders will likely be the ones presenting the strategy and reporting on the team’s accomplishments.

While not all associates need to attend, be sure to include those who lead teams, those who interact with vendors and those who have a purpose for being there. For employees who don’t attend year after year, it could be a nice surprise to invite one or two a year that don’t typically make the list.

Vendors are vital to a company’s success, whether they are partners of record or help on a project basis. It’s important they are invited, have a seat at the table, and hear the same messages your team does, because they are an extension of your team.

So now you’re at the conference and your team is attending the general sessions. They go to the break-outs. They listen to a guest speaker. They visit the vendor fair. Conferences are so much more than just following the agenda. I challenge you and your teams at the next conference to do the following:

Make a friend — There are always people you don’t know at conferences; many people attend just to network. Take the time to meet new people and get to know what they do and how they contribute to your company’s success. Keep in touch with the people you meet.

Develop existing relationships — If you have acquaintances at conferences, think about how you can take your business relationship with them to the next level, whether it’s learning something new about them or their business.

Learn something new — Lots of new information and ideas are shared at conferences. Attend with an open mind and be ready to learn. Take two or three new learnings and put together an action plan around them.

Recognize accomplishments — Conferences are a great opportunity to publicly recognize both employees and vendors who contributed to your company’s success.

In addition to celebrating accomplishments, it’s a good time to inspire attendees about the future. Conference themes that are reflective of the company’s long-term objectives will help ensure associates and vendors at all levels leave with a common understanding of the company’s strategies and what it is counting on them to accomplish.

Paul Damico is president of Atlanta based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with over 490 locations nationwide. Paul has been a leader in the foodservice industry for more than 20 years with companies such as SSP America, FoodBrand, LLC; and Host Marriott. He can be reached at pdamico@moes.com. 

Published in Columnist

Consumers expect two-way communication with brands that is timely, relevant, human and most importantly, accurate.

Companies and brands that have embraced this reality are in a much better position to engage customers, build relationships with these customers and create advocacy. Those with phobias about technology and customer engagement will find growth and creating customer loyalty increasingly difficult.

Shift from one expert to many. One industry that is highly affected by the growth of this trend is health care. For health care systems, doctors have traditionally been the experts and patients took direction solely from their family physician.

That no longer happens in many cases as consumers seek information from search engines, websites and health care ratings organizations that are all perceived as “experts.” And in light of health care reform, the amount of misinformation that is accessible and shared is enormous.

These information shifts, however, are not exclusive to the health care industry. We have seen this in virtually every industry we represent, from automotive to health care to home and building products. The categories and industries may be different, but the shift in consumer behavior as a direct result of digital technology is similar.

Brands no longer have complete control of their message, and the best thing to do is take advantage of that by embracing digital influencers and developing strategies that leverage influencers rather than trying to ignore their presence.

Brand advocates. Every brand has the power to create advocacy. This is what leads to the influence-the-influencer approach to marketing. By embracing technology, brands can engage consumers to the following:

 

 

  • Gain additional perspective on your brand, products and services. Give them online venues to write about positive experiences.

 

 

  • Acknowledge their feedback through Facebook posts, forums, comments and tweets. Answer their questions, address their concerns and correct any information that is incorrect. Take them offline so you do not offend them or create a negative perception for you.

 

 

  • Delight and enlighten them: Content is king. Photos, videos, infographics … any way you can engage your audience, do it! Create content that is relevant, timely and focused on what consumers want and need. Optimize content for search engines. Create blogs with relevant and fresh content. Drive consumers to your website and ensure proper analytics are set up so that you can track their behavior.

 

 

  • Lastly, track and measure! Determine what your goals are and what your key performance indicators will be prior to any endeavor.

 

 

Relationship building. To be authentic, brands must focus on helping consumers and not selling them. Brands do this by ensuring messaging is targeted and relevant at every touchpoint in the customer’s journey.

Advocacy building. The best way to build authentic advocacy with consumers is to understand their concerns and mindset. This can be accomplished by incorporating a digital listening and responding strategy that includes a specific and timely process for consumer support, to acknowledge their feedback through social media and other means. The goal is to create mutually beneficial relationships with consumers.

Future Team. A team of this type helps keep us ahead of cultural shifts. Their insights help us create and implement metrics to support a brand through all touchpoints and help offset competing brands’ efforts. You should do this too.

Embrace digital technology now to capitalize on this important way your target consumes information.

Maggie Harris is vice president of account services at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates (hfa). Reach her at www.teamhfa.com.

Published in Columnist
Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Generational management

In any business, a group of employees can consist of a diverse group of people. Differences in race, creed, color, sex, national origin and religion can bring a melting pot of perspectives and talent to the daily pursuit of your company’s mission. Proper management of these generations and a greater focus on the differences among them can enrich your business and ultimately your bottom line.

Building a diverse workforce has been a mantra in business for quite some time and as we become more effective at building that diversity, differences in each generation’s approach will begin to surface. Management and leaders of businesses must begin to recognize that their personal approach and desire may not deliver the same desired results in the future.

Leaders need to understand the personal needs and motivators of individuals within their organization. Individual and generational views of health care, vacation, promotions, bonuses, retirement, loyalty, authority, work hours, work approach, communication, work-life balance, etc. are quite different based on personal needs and expectations. Having polices aiming for one-size fits all will simply not work.

Here are a few characteristics of each generation that could dramatically impact how work gets done in your business:

Baby Boomers

This generation is accustomed to personal interaction. They enjoy teams and a take a collegial approach to most challenges. They tend to be workaholics and are willing to work during time typically reserved for home and family. They’re interested in being rewarded for that dedication whether it comes in a bigger bonus or further advancement.

Alternative appreciation such as more time off or vacation usually does not do the trick. This is a group that receives much satisfaction from work. This group relies on its healthcare and is looking forward to retirement.

Generation Xers

This generation is much more independent. However, they have disdain for rigid work hours and authority in general. They lack trust in institutions and corporations in general, which fits with their independent nature.

They are extremely savvy with computers and technology. The group is adaptive to change and will accept a number of job moves in their lifetimes. They work to live, not the other way around.

Generation Y / Millennials

This generation is likened to next level Gen Xers, meaning they take all the same characteristics further on the trend line. They question authority more and they challenge the status quo. Typically, they expect instant responses and are in touch almost real time with the world around them. They are multi-taskers and leave Gen X slightly behind with their knowledge of technology and the growing world of social media.

Telecommuting would be a fine option for them. They’re also very interested in quality of life and are interested in a good ratio of work/life balance. They are open-minded to differences and expect diversity.

Now that we know a little more about the differences inside the generations represented in the workplace, we can make good decisions accordingly. This knowledge is powerful when dealing with important tasks such as hiring and recruiting and how that may relate to the relocation of a key player inside your organization.

It can help you schedule meetings around preferences on work hours and access to information, and it can be worth its weight in gold relative to the retention of key team members and how you structure your compensation and benefits system for maximum impact.

Embracing the differences in your workforce relative to their generation may provide you with important information in order to make the correct choice on key decision points. Chances are that discussion with your team of HR practitioners and a little research in the areas we covered is all you need to make the most of your team.

 

Tony Arnold is founder and principal of Upfront Management, a St. Louis-based management and executive consulting firm. He can be reached at (314) 825-9525 or tony@upfrontmgmt.com

Published in Columnist
Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Maintain high performance

Someone once told me, “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child.” When I became a mom, I realized that is one of the most truthful statements ever. When one of my children is sick or miserable, it’s impossible for me to focus and be 100 percent right with the world.

I have observed the same phenomenon with teams. Much is written about what high-performing teams look like: they communicate well, they are aligned, they are clear on their purpose and success metrics; and they hold themselves accountable.

However, rarely is it acknowledged that a team is only as effective as its least effective member. It’s like a chain being only as strong as its weakest link. A team cannot realize its full potential if one member is unhappy, working against the team’s vision and efforts, or is behaving inconsistently with what the company is trying to instill in its culture.

The multiplier effect

In mathematical terms, a team’s divisor should be one. The team is as good as it is, not compromised by any single variable. And, when the team is really rocking, there is a multiplier effect that makes its value greater than it otherwise should be. The multiplier comes when teams are hitting on all cylinders and become greater than the sum of the individuals.

However, a non-contributing team member — or worse, one who works against the grain of the team — is like having a divisor greater than one. This diminishes the size of the end product, no matter how large the starting number is. The team will always be less than what it could be.

This weakening of potential can manifest itself strategically, operationally or culturally.

Strategically, it shows up as a leader not supporting enterprise initiatives, not putting the best talent on companywide efforts that will drive major changes, or focusing on a single vertical at the expense of other verticals or the enterprise as a whole.

Operationally, it shows up as a leader running the business in a way that dishonors agreed-to strategies and priorities, or engages in practices that do not support company policy or commitments, or making decisions that favor the local to the detriment of the whole.

Culturally or behaviorally, we see things like not speaking up in meetings on important topics for which they have relevant input, or making/implementing decisions without gathering input from key stakeholders, or behaving in ways that don’t align with the company’s stated values.

Poorly functioning teams a hazard

The ongoing cost of a poorly functioning team can be high. So what can you do about an ineffective team member?

Always start by making the person aware of the effect that his/her actions are having on the rest of the team and the company — and do it in a way that enables learning on both sides. There may be factors not apparent to others that are causing the team member’s behavior.

The conversation must be about listening as well as telling. Feedback should be given by the person’s boss, a senior HR person, or an outside adviser who may be hired to do a 360 assessment. It is important that the dialogue be constructive to enable a more productive future.

If the feedback changes the behavior, that is wonderful. But if not, then ultimately you have to decide whether this individual’s value outweighs his/her cost. If you can’t change the person’s behavior, your behavior may be to change the person.

 

Leslie W. Braksick, Ph.D., MPH is co-founder of CLG Inc. (www.clg.com), co-author of “Preparing CEOs for Success: What I Wish I Knew” (2010), and author of “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits” (2000, 2007). Dr. Braksick and her team help executives motivate and inspire sustained levels of high performance from their people. You can reach her at 412-269-7240 or lbraksick@clg.com.

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