What’s Dragging Down Team Performance? Tips from Mike Abrashoff

A work environment teeming with bureaucracy, trivial work tasks, and inefficient leaders chokes enthusiasm and builds impenetrable barriers to success. It’s your job to make sure these barriers to great ideas are torn down.

You must establish trust and create the ideal climate so your people can do their best work every day.

On Benfold, I first focused on the importance of connecting my crew members to our purpose. We focused on that only if we acted like a team and foster collaboration, not competition could we achieve our goals. This is the foundation for creating a culture of excellence. Once purpose and a sense of unity are established you can then begin to:

  • Create the ideal climate for success.
  • Remove barriers to great ideas.
  • Establish what winning means.

Your job is very simple at this stage. Use the leadership skills you already have developed to rely on the help of your front-line employees. These members of your team are most likely to help you breakthrough barriers because they feel the pain of inefficient processes and systems. They want to make a difference. And it is your job as the leader is to challenge business practices that no longer make sense.

Create the right climate for success

How can you ask your team to perform a job if the systems and processes governing the job are ineffective? People who do not trust their systems will not trust their leaders. Our employees must understand your determination to create an environment that breeds success. They must understand that all processes and systems are liable for review.

Remove barriers

Most employees want to be productive and successful. They just don’t know how or are facing obstacles that impede their goals. Breakdown these barriers by setting the right example through your actions. What you do is far more important and instructive than what you say. Your team will give you 100% if your actions convey your willingness to succeed. If your signals don’t match your words, you will fail to win the trust of your crew.

What gets measured gets done

People need to know how winning is measured. It’s not fun playing a game if you don’t keep score. The more your team knows that their efforts are contributing toward winning, the more it will cause them to give the extra effort.

You need to inspect what you expect. With customers, first impressions are important. Do your customer service representatives create an inviting atmosphere for customers when they call? Are your salespeople following up on leads? Are your employees creating loyal customers?

Benfold’s crew was very clear about how we measured success. When your team knows what you are measuring, whether it be customer satisfaction indices or customer loyalty, they will make the effort to positively affect those scores.

Diagnosing Barriers to High Team Performance

Analyze your processes and people. Jot down answers and comments to the following questions and techniques to diagnose your barriers to high performance:

Are people spending time on what Is Important?

  • When you observe your employees in action, do they consistently do meaningful work?
  • Does the time it takes to perform certain jobs outweigh the value they provide?
  • Are there redundancies in your processes or systems?

On Benfold, the best performance indicator was analyzing where people spent their time. Once the crew knew its mission, purpose, and goals, it became easy to spot time-wasting jobs and work. Similar to your organization, training was a vital part of our job on Benfold. Unfortunately, we were not spending enough time on training. We were too busy doing busy work. Do you see similar trends at your organization? Has busy-work started to dominate your team’s time? As a leader, it is your responsibility to challenge the validity of every system or process at your dealership and show your team the importance of eliminating wasteful practices.

What obstacles do you see?

  • Analyze all of your systems and determine if any need to be updated or eliminated.
  • Outline the steps in your various processes, and eliminate items that are not contributing to your goal.

Most talented employees have little patience for inefficiency, and will constantly find better ways to leverage their time. Watch these employees closely, and observer what they do and how they interact with the team.

On Benfold, what I saw was eye-opening. When select crewmembers saw the same mistakes or problems repeated, they would create alternative solutions. I quickly realized that we needed to implement what they were doing throughout the entire ship.

Are decisions made in a timely manner?

  • Outline the decision-making process at your organization.
  • List the decision makers at your dealership and the decisions they are responsible for.
  • Determine if the responsibility for making decisions falls too heavy or too light on your team.

The most important thing we did on Benfold was to make sure everyone knew what decisions they could make, and when they needed to get their boss involved. In the end, it was one simple guideline: If you would not feel comfortable having the outcome published in the Washington Post, don’t do it. We taught our crew that if a decision could possibly impact Benfold’s ability to perform its mission, then get your supervisor involved.

Remember, decisions that may impact profitability or customer satisfaction may require management involvement. Your team should be able to handle most other decisions.

About Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff‘s inspiring speeches challenge people to re-imagine their own leadership thinking and instill a renewed responsibility for results and success. At the age of 36, the Navy selected Abrashoff to become Commander of USS Benfold, at the time the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The immediate challenges that faced him on this under performing Naval war ship were staggering: exceptionally low morale, high turnover and unacceptably low performance evaluations. Few thought that this ship could improve. In many ways, the USS Benfold was actually an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today.

To Learn more about Mike contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866 727-7555 or [email protected]

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