Data from a 30-year study in The Gallup Management Journal discovered that 87% of all employees are not highly engaged. They found that highly disengaged employees deliver 4hr of work in an 8hr day. While highly engaged employees deliver 12hr of work in an 8 hr day. Not having most of your employees fully engaged result in a $350B/yr loss in productivity. Likewise, a disengaged salesforce can kill the revenue goals for any company. This team dysfunction is called Office Politics.
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This video shows an aspect of office politics (passive/aggressive behavior) that could be sucking the life-blood out of your organization. When people act in this way there is no sense of urgency to get things done. There is no chance of getting a real strategy executed because people are reluctant to stick their neck out and really go for it.
Here is a case study that shows how I transformed an average sales team into a highly effective one.
I got a call from the VP of Worldwide Sales. He told me that his sales team was caving in on price. “If a customer pushes back on price my salespeople automatically give them a discount. We have been training them on holding fast but they cave in any way. Can you help me?”
I interviewed each salesperson on his team and uncovered there was a trust issue between departments. His sales team had been burnt several times when manufacturing had delayed product launches. So they had to go back to their customers and make excuses. The support teams were difficult to work with so the salespeople felt uncomfortable charging full price when the support team might let the customer down. Distrust among departments was high. The problem was that no one was talking about it. A textbook example of passive/aggressive behavior.
We gathered all the department leaders and discussed and listed all the issues that stopped them from being a stronger team. We listed each issue on a flipchart in RED ink. Before long there was a wall of red on one side of the board room. Then we talked about what an ideal company would look like. We listed each attribute and behavior we wanted to see in GREEN ink on flipchart paper. We placed all the green sheets on the opposing wall.
Then we talked about what an ideal company would look like. We listed each attribute and behavior we wanted to see in GREEN ink on flipchart paper. We placed all the green sheets on the opposing wall.
I asked the attendees, “Are you ready to take on this new amazing future? ” You guessed it, everyone said yes we are going to make this future come true. There was excitement in the room to get started on solving the issues and problems that had stopped them in the past from being more effective.
I said, “Aren’t you the team that created all of this?” As I pointed to the RED wall. “What makes you think you can create this new future with the RED mindset in place?”
This challenge is like holding a mirror so they can see themselves. And for the first time or many of them, they realize that their own behavior was contributing to the RED issues. As the team members discussed their role in the dysfunction they made commitments to change their behavior. A good example of this was when the VP of Marketing said, “Maybe the problem in my department is not the people but it’s the way I lead them.” The CEO in the background mouthed the words, “Finally, we have been telling him that and he just would not accept it.”
This is what I call crossing the Rubicon. When each team member realize their part in the problem and makes a commitment to change their behavior. This is taking responsibility fo one’s action or inaction as the case may be.
One of the commitments the team made was not to allow anyone to complain about another team member without them being present. For example, if Bill the VP of finance came into the CEOs office and said, “You won’t believe what John (VP of sales) did with this account?” The CEO would call John into his office and say, “Bill has something to ask you.” After a few times of this corrective action, people learn to go directly to the source and ask for clarification. This one tool changed dramatically reduced office poliics.
For most people when someone points out a shortcoming in their department they react defensively. This transformed team had the strength to hear the criticism without getting bent out of shape. They work with the critic to find an elegant solution. When we have a stronger team, people can talk about the real issues and find better solutions.
When we have a strong team, people have the courage to bring up issues that weaker teams would never dream of touching because they feared the repercussions.
The transformed team’s attitude was, “It’s not about me or my department. It’s always about how do I make this organization better!” This no ego mindset resulted in everyone coming together for the greater good of the organization.
In Star Wars the Jedi have a code of conduct that allowed them to navigate complex issues without losing their moral compass. This team created a code of conduct before the end of the retreat. Their code included the following:
This code allowed them to have the rules of engagement locked down. This allowed them to make better decisions. And the code allowed them to be more nimble so they made decisions faster.
Two months after the team transformation I asked the VP of worldwide sales, “So what’s been the biggest change?”
He said, “Before the transformation, a salesperson would come back from a client and ask for a customization to the product line. They would hear from other departments ‘I can’t do that or we can’t do that!’ Now the first thing they hear is ‘How can we make that happen?’ This is a clear indication that the level of trust had gone way up. Now trust was an integral part of their culture.
Finally, the initial problem got solved as well. With the trust way up between departments. Not only did the salespeople stopped caving in on price, they increase the deal size by 50%.