A few months ago I was to host a breakfast for a group of our local managers. I wanted to talk about the state of our company, the values that hold us together, and the things we needed to focus on for the rest of the year.
The morning of the breakfast I contemplated the key talking points of the speech. I was particularly interested in the values part – earlier in the year we had launched a program that highlighted 7 values, complete with screen savers, mouse pads and pocket fold-outs, so I wanted to make sure they were still in the forefront of our manager’s minds.
Trouble was, I couldn’t for the life of me remember all seven of the values. Holy cow, I thought, if I can’t remember this list, how could I expect anybody else to? The “nuts and bolts” part of our business had pushed all the higher level stuff to the back of my brain.
I was sure that the rest of my busy and hard working teammates had experienced the same thing, so I needed to come up with something simpler. Something concise enough to be more like a mantra, to be repeated again and again – A mantra that would penetrate our “collective consciousness”, unify our purpose, and guide our actions.
I thought about it intently as I was driving to the breakfast. What could summarize our key values in a galvanizing way?
As I approached the restaurant, it hit me. I could reduce 7 to 2. I boiled it down to two things:
-Serve Our Customers
-Support Each Other
If we could do those two things well, we’d be living the 7 values.
I then presented this condensed view to my management group, with an additional twist – I also “narrowed” our key number focus down to two – our measurement of customer satisfaction (we use the Net Promoter Score), and our net growth in customers.
I bundled this all into a concept I called “the 4 things you need to know”, and promised that if we could get these 4 things constantly on the lips and minds of ALL of our teammates, like a mantra, in a zen-like manner we would create a vibe that would carry us to even greater success.
Yep, I was throwing my eggs in the zen basket, but my instinct told me that it was truly necessary. I was convinced that this could produce outstanding results.
I issued a challenge – get the “4 things” instilled with every teammate in 6 months. That is, if I walked up to anyone in the company and asked them to rattle them off, they easily could.
So, rolling the clock forward to today, how are we doing? Well, I often cite what I call “Terry’s rule” about teaching principles and concepts to otherwise very busy teammates– you need to tell them something at least 15 times before it will sink in.
To put it in those terms, we’re at about 10 times at this point – we have signs all over the place, people have the “4 things” posted in their cubicles and on their desks, and they are plastered on our intranet. And I keep talking about it in team meetings. Again. And again.
When I’m on the road my hit rate on individual recitations of the mantra is at about the same 10/15 ratio. But it’s increasing every day. And the two numbers in the “4 things” have risen smartly, one even higher than our budgeted goal.
I have no doubt we’re going to full absorption, once we hit the 15 times. We just have to keep at it. And then we’ll really soar.
It’s all about the mantra, and trying to say more with less. Zen indeed.