You’re not like every other company. But if your employees don’t know that, their job performance will be whatever they think is acceptable, leading to inconsistent work and a hit-and-miss approach to working relationships. But if you take the lead in defining what makes you different, you can exert a higher degree of influence on your employees and the work they perform. Let’s talk about 3 ways you can do this.
It goes like this. Companies who don’t teach their employees how to think about the work — what good work looks like and how to think about it — seem uncoordinated and awkward. And it usually shows in their work. Even if it’s acceptable work, you might find arguments between employees or inconsistent work or repeated work. All these things amount to inefficiencies and poor job satisfaction.
Let’s see if you notice any of the following:
- The owners of the company don’t realize what makes them special.
- Each employee seems left to guess at acceptable levels of quality of work, armed only with the experience they had at the last company they were at.
- Employees disagree about how to do the work, with neither really understanding how the other person could be so wrong.
- Employees have a lot of unnecessary, back-and-forth communication to talk about simple things.
These problems could find their cause in poorly communicated standards. But what does it look like to bring your team on board to your definition of how you do business? Let’s talk about values, knowing and caring about who you serve, and a basic standard of work that characterizes your company and puts everyone on the same page.
So how do you orient people to what’s important, giving them a consistent “why” to always aim toward? You do it by leading them to agreement on these three critical areas: your values, your love for those you serve, and the standards of quality you expect.
The beauty is that these questions don’t just tell you why, but each one supports the others.
Values define the contents of your heart and what’s valuable to you. What kind of person are you as you’re serving others? The answers to this question infuse your work with meaning.
Values make everything you do make sense to those around you. If they understand why you want something done a certain way then they’ll understand it a lot better. So even if they don’t agree with you and your values, they’ll still be able to align with you, or at least understand how to make something that will work for you.
This reduces misunderstanding and excessive, time-consuming communication in getting tasks done. And if people see how it comports with your service of others, it will build your brand.
What If You Don’t Define Values?
If you don’t purposefully define your values, your people will be unsure of the kinds of solutions to problems you’d accept, and they won’t know how to conduct themselves in a way that reflects the values of the company.
For instance, for many people, practicality is a value. They might short-change additional areas of quality and, instead, focus on delivering work that meets specifications. They might even think they’re doing you a favor by saving you money. But this could clash with your values of craftsmanship and a job well. You’ll have a conflict since your values and their values don’t lead to the same kind of work.
And this could happen all over your company, and it can take all kinds of forms you may not even realize.
Actions You Can Take
So how do you bring alignment in this area? You lead a conversation about values.
Define values. If you have your values defined, have your employees show up for a meeting and talk about one of them.
- Show them the word, but not the definition.
- Ask them to define those values.
- Ask them for action statements that reflect the value. “If our value is x, that means we do y.”
- Let them disagree with you, because that’s how you hear what they’re really thinking and can guide them to agreement.
Do a values/actions audit. In this exercise, you ask them — after you’ve defined the values — what are three things that your company does that doesn’t seem to comport with its own values. Then ask them about three things your company does that best demonstrates its values.
Nothing’s as motivating as love. Companies that care about its clients and their success, find ways to connect with them, share in their victories, and work in such a way that shows that friendship.
We all think we know who we serve. So why is this so important? Because it’s not just by knowing who they are, but fostering and developing a desire to serve them well. And if your team’s on-board with that — if your clients and their successes matter to each of your employees — your employees will pour themselves into it, because they’re doing it for someone they know and like.
This really has a few aspects:
- Your employees need the ability to care. This happens at hiring.
- You need to tell them to care.
- You need to help them understand why your work matters to them.
If you do this well, your employees might start showing more patience, more empathy, and more of a desire to see them succeed.
If you have skill, good workflows and you care about the people you serve, you’re creating your own monopoly in your industry.
What If You Don’t?
If you don’t define your customers and foster a real friendship and desire to see them succeed, your employees might start seeing them as nameless and faceless people who they have no connection with.
It’s important to remember the many conflicts your employees experience in their lives. They have requirements for quality and performance, and then they also have distractions in other parts of their lives. So if you can’t focus them on loving the people they serve, the level of work and quality of engagement, your clients’ experience will depend more on the kind of day your employee is having rather than a consistent kind of experience. And that mixed experience will make it difficult to fully and completely build a continuity of service.
After all, this isn’t just being nice to people; it’s seeing how you’re helping people in every part of your work.
Actions You Can Take
So some quick points.
- Ask your team who their favorite customer is and why?
- Ask your team to talk about what are some challenges that you have with some of your clients?
- Talk about the situation of the client and create empathy for the client and then remind your staff why you serve people what you do the effect that it has on their business and on their lives. How can your work and actions help?
- And then list the things that your company does and why it matters. So separate what it does from why it matters and then connect them, so everyone can see the relationships clearly.
These kinds of conversations will help you to love and serve those who you serve in your market.
Your quality of work becomes your outlet for the desire to see them succeed, infusing your work with meaning.
Why Define Quality Standards?
Defined results show your employees what your values and your concern for your client look like in real terms. It brings everyone on board and provides a measuring stick so that your team can agree.
A standard or a range of acceptable performance for your company, combined with good values and a strong sense that the work you’re doing really matters to someone you care about (your customer), allows you to reach a level of quality that’s beyond most of your competition.
What If You Don’t Define Results?
If you lack a standard of work, it will be hard to troubleshoot or hold people accountable when you fail, because you haven’t clearly defined failure. And you’ll constantly find yourself returning to quality issues because you’re investing an inordinate amount of time and energy communicating with each individual, rather than defining it once, for everyone.
Actions You Can Take
Here are a few ways to start building standards, even if you don’t have them yet.
After-Action Review: When the military runs an operation, it runs reviews that take place after action. They like to find out what they can learn from what just happened, even if it was a good result.
- Ask everyone to list what could have gone better. At least 3 things.
- Ask them to list what went well. At least 3.
- Talk through the reasons for those things and build the outcomes into your processes and standards.
Minimum standards approach: Review what you think are the minimum standards of the industry with a team brainstorm.
- Make everyone list all the requirements for your type of job.
- Where can you outperform the competition? Rank them based on that.
- Create your spec requirements (standard operating procedures) by defining the minimum level of standards for each category.
- Pick 3 you’ll overperform in and define them as well. Hint: they might comport with your values.
Standards are how your values and your love for your customer interact with the real world. Define them, and you’ll show everyone what your commitment looks like in real terms.
So how do you orient your team towards shared goals? You lead your team to agree in their hearts and in their minds about your values as a company, the desire to serve your clients, and a standard of performance that shows your commitment to those values. Talk about these three things with your team and they’ll be convinced that you care about it, and you’ll be working from the same script.
Do this right, and they won’t have to bother you with questions all the time because you will have provided them a standard, and an explanation of why you do what you do and for whom.
And when they have a question or a problem out in the field, and you’re not there, they’re much better equipped to approximate the correct answer given the standards of work, the care that you have for your customers, and the values that the company stands for.