I love my job. I wonder how many readers agree with this statement. I am a CSM for ServiceChannel. ServiceChannel is a cloud based facility maintenance solution for Retail Stores, Convenience Stores, and Restaurants. CSM stands for Client Success Manager, but the signature on my email reads Chief Smile Maker. I get to help facilities managers tackle a tough, never-ending job and I get a lot of self-worth out of making them smile. One of my privileges is seeing how different companies operate and the culture on the team. Some operate at a very dysfunctional level, and others operate at a very high level. The difference is amazing. I have worked in restaurants and C-Stores for almost 20 years; and it is easy to pick up the type of leader in the captain’s chair and the type of people they hire.
In dysfunctional companies the people are always too busy, the employees use language like “keeping my head above water“, or “another day in paradise“– or my personal favorite, “living the dream.” These are all code-phrases, at some level, for “my job sucks and I wish I worked somewhere else.” Deadlines are missed and people have rehearsed excuses cued up, waiting for the first opportunity to use them. In a highly successful team, everyone has a clear vision of their mission and purpose. Team members are enjoying the challenges and struggles of the job; and work flows smoothly and quickly with incredible results. I am not naive to think there is just one simple difference; but, in my opinion, this one thing sticks out more than any other. I’ll get to the one thing in a moment, but first a story of a father and 3 sons.
A story I heard years ago illustrates this point. Three brothers left the farm to work in the city. They got jobs in the same company at the same pay. Two years later Jim was earning $500 a month, Frank was earning $1,000 a month and George was earning $1,500. Their father decided to visit their employer and ask why there was such a difference in each of the son’s pay. The employer said he’d let the boys explain for themselves. The employer called Jim, the lowest paid son, into his office and said, “Jim, I understand the Oceanic just docked. Please go down and get the cargo inventory.” Three minutes later, Jim returned and reported, “She has a cargo of 2,000 seal skins. I got the information from the first mate over the telephone.” The employer gave Frank, the middle-paid son, the same instructions. An hour later Frank returned with a list showing the Oceanic contained not only 2,000 seal skins, but also 500 beaver and 1,100 mink pelts. Finally, George, the highest-paid son, received the same instructions. Working hours were long over when he returned to the employer’s office. “The Oceanic carries 2,000 seal skins,” he began. “They are for sale at $5 each, so I took a two-day option and called a prospect in St. Louis, offering them for $7. I expect to get a sale tomorrow. I also found 500 beaver pelts, which I sold over the phone for a profit of $700. The mink pelts were poor quality so I didn’t do anything with them.” When George left the office the employer turned to the father and smiled. “You probably noticed,” he said. “Jim doesn’t do as he’s told, Frank only what he is told, and George does without being told.”
So what is the one thing that makes a facility manager have less stress than others? Initiative. Initiative is the one thing your team has to have to be in the habit of winning. Where this rings true in my job is that my clients use ServiceChannel to manage their facility maintenance repairs. Unfortunately, some clients mistake the use of the software like Jim in the story above. They track the work requests and hope the software will do the rest for them. Some clients are more like Frank and learn how to use the system and take full advantage of all the modules and applications. And finally, there are clients like George; they take full advantage of the system, but that is just the beginning. They take extra steps to make sure notes are completely filled out so reporting can be fully utilized. They analyze the data to look for trends; cyclical patterns; potential equipment failures; plan for disasters; transition break/fix work; to preventative maintenance work. They are diligent about updating equipment data, and on and on and on. Vince Lombardi is routinely misquoted when people say “Practice makes perfect.” What he actually said was, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.”
When I hear an employee say something like, “I’ll get to that later.” I silently say in my head, “No, you won’t.” When I hear an employee say, “Give me a minute; I need to add this extra note.” I smile because I know this person is a finisher. Each task needs to be completed to the level George did every time. It is the habit of following through consistently that makes perfect practice perfect. When an employee has a sick, uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach—when something is done only halfway—he is the “George” in your company. Your team is a reflection of you and you dictate the culture and habits of the team. I have always believed that hiring the right team takes more time, but is the best investment you will be glad you made. A good leader will have less stress because his team has initiative and focus.
Well, that was simple. I guess we can all get on with our day, right? Or is it? Is it really that simple? I can feel the doubt as you read this. It is that simple, but simple is not to be confused with easy. How do you go about hiring new people? Are you a Jim, Frank, or George? Do you seek out the best, go the extra mile and never settle for good people, but only insist on the best. I can hear the doubt creeping in again. “We don’t have a good labor market”; “we don’t pay enough to attact top talent”; “I don’t have that kind of time to sift through mountains of resumes.” Let me ask you this, Don’t great employees all need a first job? Go find the young college grad that has habits of winning, going the distance, self-discipline, etc. They are looking for a great place to work and you are looking for great talent. Money is not the main reason why people work. It needs to be fair compensation to your area, but the culture and work environment are far more important than a dollar. Lastly, how much time each week do you waste micromanaging the hypothetical Jims of the world? (No offense to employees named Jim.) You need to upgrade your team immediately. Try this little test in your office. Ask each of your employees to complete a new simple task, not something you have requested before. Measure their results based on the story above. Hire Jim’s and Frank’s replacements as soon as you can. Start today and take the time to find the right person to replace your Jims. The Georges on your team will thank you and the Franks that stick around will improve or they will be next to go. You may not have to ask them to check on a vessel’s cargo, but they are faced many times with opportunities to use initiative. You frequently have the chance to give extra effort as George did. The extent of that effort directly affects the success you will have in your career and in life.
Last year, at the Chick-fil-A leader conference, John Maxwell said when someone asks you to walk a mile with him or her, go the extra mile. The first mile is transactional and the second mile is relational. When your team is in the habit of going the extra mile, the function of the job is the transactional first mile. The extra steps, like George took in the story, are the relational steps. It may not be person to person, but when each person on the team takes the additional 30 seconds to set the next person up for success, it builds great relationships. When each person makes time to outdo the other person with something nice or great, it builds an awesome culture. What I see when I am at that client’s office is a stress-free facility manager because the team is of top- notch talent able to handle everything coming their way; and when a problem arises, all of the team members jump in to solve the problem until the problem is solved.