Over the years I have always enjoyed talking with young people who are new to the business world and new to their company. Their optimism, energy, and clean slate potential is infectious, and I learn a great deal by listening to their viewpoints and early perceptions.
I then have a habit of asking them three purposeful questions: "What does your company do?", "How does your company do it?", and "Why does your company do it?" Normally at this point I receive answers about their specific daily tasks but little comprehension of the big picture, followed by some ramblings about meetings and orders from their boss, and then when we get to the "why" question we are left with only blank stares.
Such an amazing opportunity is lost at this moment - not just by these young go-getters, but more importantly by us, their leaders. These are our ambassadors, and we continually send them out into the world without the information, tools, or training to be raving fans for our organization. Whether we lead a small company, a large corporation, a charity, a church, or the homeowners association, we are missing huge opportunities. We are losing incredible sales, marketing, recruiting, and retention opportunities by not initially teaching, and constantly reinforcing, what we do, how we do it differently, and why we get out of bed every morning to do it.
In my organizations, every new teammate always meets with me, normally in small groups within the first two weeks, for what we used to call Kool Aid Training, but what we better today call Special Sauce Training. Over many focused hours I drive home this very important foundation. I believe that if we fumble the ball right here on the kickoff, there is no way we will win the long-term game.
WHAT. Sadly, most employees don't even know all of the products or services their organization offers. We spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns to educate the world what we do, and we don't even teach our own ambassadors. How is this possible? People show up to work, hit their cubicle, return the one hundred emails and voicemails specific to their role, have three meetings with their immediate team, and rush out to get the kids from daycare to soccer practice. Management consultants call this a Silo Organization. Then, ten years go by, and this hardworking teammate has just never had the time, the inclination, or the financial incentive to understand what's really going on in their own company. We must convert Silos into Starfish and Spider webs.
Starfish and Spider web organizations communicate across all divisions, teams, and roles. Teammates participate in management programs with exposure to all company departments. When one arm is cut off, the decentralized nervous system takes right over. Webs are rebuilt overnight because everyone is connected, and everyone is on the same page. We explain to the insurance operations clerk how the Mortgage Division operates. We ensure the asset manager is able to deliver a 10-second elevator speech for the Investment Banking Division. This "What Training" is then continuously reinforced with constant communication pushes to the entire company, quarterly company-wide functions, and even annual full-company retreats. Spend the money. You will be paid back 100X!
Instead of begging employees to make referrals to other divisions in your company, start splitting the entire fee or profit 50-50 with the teammate who was kind enough to make the referral. You will instantly have employees quickly learning everything there is to know about what the other silos offer. We had mortgage processors preaching the benefits of proper estate planning to new home buyers and stock brokers stressing the importance of diversifying with the Real Estate Department. The large corporations can never get traction with their crossover sales programs, because they refuse to set up the proper compensation programs based on self-interests.
HOW. People are inspired by being part of organizations that are special and different from the crowd. This is the culture we must initiate on day one, and then continuously drive home every day in every thing we do. How involves how we look, how we speak, how we answer the phone, the words we use, the attitudes we portray, the rules for returning emails and voicemails, the service ideology, the sales expectations, the Dale Carnegie communication, the true commitments to excellence. All of our new teammates put Post-it Notes with the words "My Pleasure" on their computer monitors until they instill the habit of saying "My Pleasure" every time a customer says thank you. Our financial advisors prepared a full financial plan for every new client before making one investment recommendation, because we knew it was the right thing to do and that it separated us from every other company in the business.
WHY. Nietzsche stated, "A man who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." Curly the Cowboy in "City Slickers" advised, "Do you know what the secret to life is? One thing...Just one thing...That's what you have to find out." Your organization can save the whales or plot world domination, but you must have a mission. In our organizations we are never allowed to use the word "J-O-B," or the word "try" (but that's another Post). Life is too short to have a J-O-B. Jack Welch, the successful CEO of GE, was famous for claiming that a company's most important, most human mission was to be strongly profitable. With this profitability, the company then provided employees better lives with dignity and significance, as well as provided communities and the less fortunate with needed services and safety nets. Truly a brilliant mission.
People tell you that they want to dress like slobs and don't want the pressure of tough goals, but this is simply their ingrained insecurities and fears of failure speaking. Your people actually crave discipline, they wish they had big scary goals, and they dream of the opportunity to be part of a unique organization which everyone else admires. Someone, you, just needs to lead them to the Promised Land.
Only let people on your bus who believe in your mission. You do not have enough time to convert people to your cause. Then, train these ambassadors on the What, How, and Why, and if you educate them properly, the other A-Players of the world will soon be piling onto your bus. Finally, then remember not to be the mean kid in Alabama who says, "Seat taken! Ye can't sit here!" but instead the Jenny who lovingly offers, "You can sit here if you want." Good Luck out there!
"Don't ask 'What should I do?,' but 'What needs doing?'" - Peter Drucker