At 10.50am on the 29th of November 2005 Matthew, my youngest son was born. He was seven weeks premature and weighed only four lbs. Denise had to go into the operating theatre so I was alone at the side of Matthew’s incubator feeling scared and helpless. He was crying, so in an effort to try to do something I put my hands on either side of his little plastic cot and prayed he would be ok.
I was startled by a whisper in my ear, it was the nursery matron, she said “what are you doing?” I replied “I’m trying to help my baby.” She laughed softly saying “son, you won’t help him from behind the glass.”
So she lifted Matthew gently and placed him inside my shirt. He cuddled in and went back to sleep. Though I sometimes reflect on my failings as a father and in business, at that moment with Matthew sleeping on my shoulder I felt like I could have changed the world.
I believe that if we reflect on times on our life when we feel our best, it is when we are helping others. And I also believe that the more you help others get what they want the more you get what you want. For managers this means getting involved at the coalface. Read on to find out how.
First make sure that people have a strong sense of purpose. They need to know why and what they are trying to do, they get feedback in the form of measures, and are also allowed to contribute to the improvement of the system. But more than anything else, you must get involved.
Let’s consider purpose. Purpose drives behaviour and therefore tells people how to act in a given situation. Take, for example, a contact centre – management tell their staff that they want customers to experience great service, but in the same breath measure them on the number of calls they take every day. Given the choice of behaving in accordance with what they’re told to do and what they’re measured on staff will focus on call volume rather than doing the right thing for the customer. Hence the purpose becomes do things as fast as possible, even if it’s the wrong thing to do.
When there’s no clear purpose staff get confused about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Morale goes down because there is a lack of meaning in the job; getting through as many calls as you can every day is not really making a contribution to the customer. And when you deviate from what matters to customers your business fails.
Next make sure you have measures related to your purpose. Working on a clear operational concrete purpose is no good if you then use unrelated measures. Remember people will do what you count, not always what counts.
Finally study work. Look for systems and processes that make it difficult for staff to serve the customer.
As I was reminded through the nurse in Matthew’s ward that you can’t help people from behind the glass. This applies as much to managers as it does to fathers and nurses. What about you? How much time did you spend solving problems with your team last week?