January 15, 2017
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartIn last month’s column, I introduced the concept of the Invisible Business Arena. This is the place in which the communication disconnects, and drivers of cohesiveness and missed opportunities dwell in most businesses. This intangible space lies in between your metrics, KPIs, apps and company-specific procedures. It’s where collaboration trumps coersion and making sustainable change can be a dream come true. It’s also where frazzled entrepreneurs can find ‘aha’ moments when they least expect them. Given practice and the right tools, the invisible barriers blocking your next level of success can be transformed into your best advantage.

Based on my experience coaching countless business owners, the following are just a few of the simple steps you can take to strengthen your team. When practiced consistently, these steps will help to accelerate results and improve your ability to focus on what you need to.

Show them what it looks like

Attention to detail; accurate completion of tasks to the company standard; sequence of work flow; pace; efficient processes; safe work practices; proper equipment operation; materials handling methods; and roper use of apps and systems for flow of information.

All of the above (and many more) can most effectively be conveyed by demonstrating first-hand what is required and expected. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then demonstration is worth a million. We work in a profession of people who like to be on the move, and who, on average, prefer hands-on learning; seeing and hearing all at the same time. The reality is, when the pressure is on (and you are pressed for time), you force yourself to clearly demonstrate what’s required just once, then you will get a far better end result, over and over again on that task. Quick verbal instructions rarely work, and texts are even less effective in conveying critical (and often visual) details.

Explain the importance of their role

The days of finding reliable, loyal labourers who are willing to work tirelessly day after day without a sense of future opportunity or valued contribution are pretty much over. My advice is to get used to it. As employers, we are now in an era where our labour force is looking to have different (and additional) basic needs met than an entry level or moderately-skilled labourer did a generation ago. Today’s workforce is looking to understand where they fit in and in what ways their contribution matters. This trend has become an important part of successful onboarding — and a key component in employee retention.

The more you can articulate and demonstrate ways in which employees can be successful, the better. This includes providing a clear job description which includes accountabilities — these are simply a list of what a successful employee accomplishes. This list can be baked into a performance evaluation template. Performance evaluation? Yes, that’s the meeting you have with every employee, two or more times a year, to identify areas they are working as expected and other areas that need improvement. Here is an example of accountabilities for a landscape maintenance lead hand:
  • Excellence in leadership (proactive, motivational, team building) communication and interpersonal skills
  • Manages project budgets effectively
  • Follows and enforces the company employee manual and safety program
  • Applies exceptional plant care knowledge proactively
  • Ensures safe, timely and professional completion of crew tasks
  • Manages conflict within the guidelines of company violence and harassment policy
  • Provides clear direction and responds to crew member questions with respect
  • Prioritizes, delegates and plans effectively (use of time, materials and equipment)
  • Demonstrates keen focus on customer experience and proactive communication
  • Operates company vehicles in a safe and professional manner
  • Practices good housekeeping of tools, etc. on all sites at all times
  • Brings concerns, ie: safety or staff issues promptly to the attention of management
  • Follows and engages staff in company procedures and policies as outlined in the handbook
  • Punctual, dependable and “steps up” in peak season when needed
  • Attends all mandatory meetings, contributes appropriately and collaborates with peers
  • Actively contributes to effective management of resources (schedule, logistics, etc.)

Listen to them

If your door is open, they will come, and you will build inclusivity in your company culture. If your door is closed, (ie: you project yourself as being authoritarian and unwilling to change your ways) they will not bring their creative ideas, nor their full potential to their work.

Some of the best ideas I ever built into my landscape company operations and systems came from my staff. What was best for my business often came from listening to the growing collective wisdom of my team, rather than from an outsourced system. This led to sustainable changes made to improve efficiency and effectiveness. When new ideas come from them, you need not worry about gaining buy-in.

In addition to gaining right-fit solutions to improve productivity, a better, more cohesive team can emerge. The bottom line is when people know their opinion counts, they try harder. A cautionary note for clarity: this concept doesn’t mean your employees are given permission to ‘drive the company bus,’ or that in any way you create an expectation whereby you would adopt every suggestion they make. Rather, you encourage their ideas, discuss benefits, weigh pros and cons, and adapt where beneficial — with an open mind and a sharp eye on outcomes.

I suggest you identify where you business is truly performing and contributing to profit and where it isn’t. Then consider what invisible factors may be contributing to your results. I can pretty much guarantee the true drivers of your success (or lack thereof) are hiding in the ether between your systems, policies and productivity.
Jacki Hart may be contacted at peertopeer@landscapeontario.com.