This is part ten of twelve. We’re almost done with the habits of high performers, but if you just got here, make sure you check out these other posts:
They Value their Time & Have a Plan
As we approach the end of our twelve habits of high performers, I want you to think about how you manage the days of your staff. Think about the ways you assign tasks, check in to see how things are going, and all that good stuff. Have it in your mind?
Let’s say someone was watching you manage
Ok, let me ask you this. If someone were watching from just a few feet away – far enough to not be in the way, but close enough to see every look and mannerism – would they come away with the sense that you trust your team? Would they come away with the sense that your team trusts you?
If you feel yourself starting to get a bit defensive, don’t. I’m not there, and we’re not looking at each other. No one knows what you’re thinking or how you’re answering. But ponder this – if you and your team don’t have a trust relationship established, do you think they’ll ever be high performers?
It’s a Question of Trust
I left this habit towards the end because it focuses on trust and decision-making. I know that’s not what the habit says, so let me unpack it a bit.
Ask yourself how you would need to manage a young intern. Likely you would need to have them shadow you a bit, or someone else a bit. You would need to meet with them regularly to debrief what they were seeing and explain what it all meant. You would ask them to come to you every time they had a decision to make so you could help them process it. You would define their day-to-day schedule so they could learn and so that you were maximizing the benefit of having them on board. Right?
The reason you take away decision-making moments and why you structure their time is because they’ve not developed the experience or expertise to be trusted to make those calls.
Did you catch that?
It’s about trust. When trust is in place, you can let them manage their own decisions and their own time. But until there is the right level of experience, you won’t trust them. So that’s why interns are treated differently.
High performers, unlike interns, have the requisite experience and expertise to make their own call and to manage their own time. And they’ll do it – without being asked – as long as they feel like they’re in a context where they’re trusted.
Trust comes from Training
I’ve written about Ritz-Carlton culture before because it’s one of my favorites, so I won’t spend a lot of time going over it again, but let me just summarize my take on the seven elements of their success for developing a high performance culture across language, country, and management boundaries.
Everyone is well trained and well versed on the Ritz’s 12 service values.
Every new hire has 21 days to get certified to perform their role with excellence.
They send in stories that model their values to the central office daily.
Every day the central office picks a set of “wow” stories and sends them out.
Every day teams “huddle” at the start of the day – to remember why they’re there
Every meeting covers a core value and then they read off “wow” stories to inspire.
Every employee has a budget of what they can spend to solve problems.
Did you see that last one? I remember reading at one point that it was $2,000. That’s a lot of money to spend to solve an incident. But if every employee is trained and trusted, why not empower them to make the decisions?
Are you thinking about Training?
“You were not hired, you were selected.” Imagine hearing that from a general manager of a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Wouldn’t it make you sit up a bit straighter? Wouldn’t it make you want to try a bit harder? Imagine someone telling you that though you serve, you’re not a servant, and that instead, “You are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Wouldn’t that impact how you thought of your work? Wouldn’t it impact how you thought about yourself?
My point is that the Ritz-Carlton approach to training isn’t random. Every sentence, every exercise, every bit of the two-day orientation and follow-up work is developed for impact. Why? Because training matters. It changes the way people perform. And if you want to develop a high performance culture – one that will attract and keep high performers – you need to think about how you’re training your staff.
But I’m not talking about a Program
Before you stop me, let me be clear. I have never put on a formal program for training staff. I’m not suggesting you do it either – unless that’s something you want to do. But I do think that it’s important that you have a strategy for developing trust with your team.
Let me share with you the one I use, though you may come up with your own. Mine is seven steps, just like the Ritz-Carlton, but it’s very, very different because I work with software engineers. But here it is:
Assign single project – low impact, low visibility
Assign single project – low impact, high visibility
Assign single project – high impact, low visibility
Assign single project – high impact, high visibility
Assign multiple projects – low visibility
Assign multiple projects – high visibility
Stay out of the way but be around to help
Ok, so maybe it is a Program
What you see above is a strategy that says when I first start managing an engineer, I ask them to work on a single project that has virtually no impact on the organization and it’s one that virtually no one knows about. Over time I create projects that increase in both impact to the organization and visibility. As we move through these steps, I have multiple opportunities to talk about what it means to hit deadlines, to take ownership of the project, and to get it done done.
When we get to multiple projects, I know it’s time to talk about time management. And that’s when I get to talk about how high performers have their own sense of what they’re good at, how to spend their time most effectively, and why I don’t plan to manage their time. I don’t even plan to manage their tasks. I’ve put them in a role where our expectations are clear. They know what I want from them. They know what they’re best at. They know the gaps and when and how to ask for help.
In my own way, I’m giving them even more than $2,000 to make their own decisions on solving the issues in front of them. But that means I have to do one more thing than just move them thru different kinds of projects, talking to them at key moments to introduce the habits and values we’ve been going over. I need to help them think through how to make decisions.
How to Decide
When I get that point with a software engineer that is working on multiple projects and is starting to freak out a bit about all their work, I walk them thru a framework for prioritization. That framework is unique to our own business model, so there is little benefit in sharing it with you, but there is a framework that I like that is worth sharing.
You likely know the name Welch from Jack. But do you know his wife, Suzy? If not, let me introduce you to her and her 2009 book, 10-10-10. The three tens stand for minutes, months and years. And the framework is rather simple – how would I make the call if I were thinking about this question from the perspective of each of these time frames.
It’s about thinking about consequences. That’s the part most of us skip over. But I don’t want my staff making short-term decisions, and neither do you. And high performers don’t do it either. Think about how that simple framework might transform your world. If you want more info, pick up her book – it’s a fast read.
The Tenth Habit of a “Done Done” Culture
High performers value their time. They know what they’re best at, and want to spend their time in a way that maximizes their own results. They value mastery, as Dan Pink articulates in his book Drive. But they will only be able to make decisions about their time, live out their plan for their time, if they know they have your trust. And you will only have trust in them if you’re assured that they’ve been trained effectively – which is up to you.
So in short, in order to develop a culture that supports your high performers, you need to focus on a strategy that helps you develop trust. Trust between each other, and between you and them. And that may often mean that you need to develop a strategy that helps you train them so that you feel confident trusting them.
Do you remember the Man Gulch fire from Habit Two? Guess what? All fire fighters are taught about controlled burns now so that they know how to handle similar situations. And situations like the Miracle on the Hudson (from Habit Three) are often used in trainings so that future pilots learn from the challenges and successes of the past.
Before you gather your team, ask yourself these questions:
Do you have a strategy for how you train your staff?
Do you have predictable moments when key teaching/learning can happen?
What stories and habits are you sharing with them to develop the culture you want?
As a team, get together and discuss the following?
Have you felt like you could make a key decision without help? Why? Why not?
What’s the level of trust in your team?
What could help it grow to the next level?