How Good Is the Team You Have in Place?

By Paul Feeney Managing Director, Sanford Rose Associates - Wayne | October 28, 2008

The organization thus functions like a complex molecule, with the various teams as its atoms and each leader as a nucleus. And as long as any given team does not show obvious signs of radioactive decay, the comfortable assumption is that it's stable and performing as intended.

Naturally, team members have their foibles. Tom, for example, tends to become passive-aggressive when assigned tasks he doesn't enjoy. Amanda is too inclined to criticize other members of the team. And Ed shoots first, asking questions later. How many - if any - of such foibles should be accepted as normal human behavior? And how are they affecting overall team performance? Could the team be doing better than it does?

The Overlooked Importance of Teams

Over the years few organizations have clearly articulated performance standards for small groups of people - whether a headquarters staff, CRM unit, raw materials purchasing section, production planning department or accounts payable section.

Where incentive plans exist, they tend to be based on a combination of individual performance goals and large-group financial yardsticks (such as the sales or earnings performance of an entire division, or perhaps the total company).

In between, however, is the collective performance of those smaller groups of people who work together toward a common objective - managing a plant, bringing a new product from laboratory to market, creating advertising and direct-marketing programs, etc. Yet how often are such team leaders disciplined or penalized for having an incompetent as one of their direct reports? Instead, members of the team instinctively learn how to work around the individual, who continues onward, blissfully unaware of his or her incompetence.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.