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How to tackle a lack of urgency in your business head-on

You’ve just shared some financial data with the rest of your Executive Team. The auspices aren’t good. Your platform’s on fire and threatening to engulf your entire business. It’s clear to everyone that radical transformation is needed. Yet your team lacks any sense of urgency to do something about it. What should you do?

In our experience, transformation doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. There’s no single significant action, killer innovation, or miracle moment. Instead, it’s more like relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel. Turn by slow turn, you gradually build momentum until, at last, it starts to spin for itself.  

Recognise that change is hard. Really hard. 80% of heart attack victims resist any changes to their diet and lifestyle following their first attack. This is despite their GP giving them comprehensive recommendations. Your team must see the rationale for change to make lasting changes. They’ve got to want it. And you’ll need to drive through the changes until your flywheel starts to spin.

    Get granular

    When we look at the Working Genius profiles of team leaders and managers, we often find they’re strong at ‘enablement’ and ‘tenacity’ but not so great on ‘invention’, ‘discernment’ and ‘galvanising’. So they can intellectually agree with you that change is needed, but they don’t know how or what to change. As well as this, they’ll find it challenging to decide on the right thing to do and get their team behind it. 

    So you need to get granular. Spell it out to them. I was with a client recently who told me they needed to reduce churn by 20%. ‘OK’, I said. ‘Let’s make a plan’. We broke this objective down by teams. ‘For this team,’ we said, ‘it would mean finding $5K per month or nine customers to retain. Where can we find these nine customers?’ They replied, ‘We can find three here, three here and three here’. ‘OK – great. Let’s go deeper into the detail. Next week, you must identify 15 ‘at risk’ customers to work on. Out of these, you might lose 12 who would churn anyway. But save three. This is now your target’. Now, this team has a clear and immediate plan of action.

    Use job scorecards to clarify expectations.

    I don’t believe people come to work to do the minimum they can get away with. A lack of urgency happens when staff members don’t understand what’s expected of them. It’s important to know when you’ve had a good day. Clarity of expectations is the first question of the Gallup Q12 measure of staff engagement for a reason. 

    We strongly suggest you use job scorecards to help identify individual KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). I’ve written about scorecards before, and if you take nothing else from this blog, take this advice. We use them with clients to get to the heart of practical activity in any given role, and they are incredibly motivating. 

    The teams themselves create them. Essentially, they write down all their daily tasks, decide which are high, medium or low impact, and filter these down to high-impact tasks that take up large chunks of time. Then they work out how to measure these things against a minimum standard for the KPIs. 

    And if you don’t want to use scorecards? At the very least, get clear on the number one thing your company invests in for each role or job title. Define that number or metric. Then track it daily, weekly and monthly. I’m always staggered by the fact that most employees have no idea what constitutes a good day’s work. Without this, how can you hope for any sense of urgency?

    Introduce time-blocking

    time-blocking

    A lack of urgency is something I had to deal with in the past when I led several different customer success teams. I’d say to them, ‘Our churn’s too high, and our customer sat is too low – what are we going to do to fix it?’ We’d make a plan together to talk to more customers. We set targets for each Customer Success Manager to call five people daily. A month later, had it happened? No. Why? They were all ‘too busy’. 

    I’d ask them what they were busy doing. Usually, it was email, support tickets, phone calls, etc. Even though we’d agreed that calling five customers a day was a priority, they were stuck in a pattern of behaviour that prevented them from progressing.

    So I introduced time-blocking. I told my team not to check their email when they came in at 9am. Instead, they were to call their list until they’d spoken to five human beings, or it was noon – whichever came first. Then they could get on with the rest of their busy work. Team leaders were told to incentivise with Cadbury Crème egg giveaways (must have been this time of year!) Suddenly the flywheel started to spin. 

    Celebrate and praise

    When measuring KPIs and driving forward metrics with your team, it’s essential to understand what constitutes success. How will your data be reported in real-time? 

    Our client, Macquarie Telecom, has seen phenomenal success with its Net Promoter Score, driving it up to a score in the high 80s. This is the number they obsess about, and you see it everywhere in their business. In Reception, there’s a display showing their overall NPS score. Every team has a monitor showing individual NPS scores.

    Part of Macquarie’s pay package is linked to the company’s NPS to encourage collaboration between teams. There are big celebrations such as ‘The League of Legends’. If their support technicians get 10 x 10s in a row on their NPS transaction tickets, they take part in this prestigious monthly competition. They are the heroes of the organisation.

    In your monthly All-Hands meetings, give prizes to people who have hit their metric. Find a way of awarding social currency. Create a culture of celebration and reward to keep your flywheel turning. 

    Overcome the negativity bias.

    In my new book, I mention Moira Clark, a Professor of Customer Experience at Henley College. She told me a story about a UK-based financial services company in Sheffield. One of their branches was doing well, the other badly. So they took the Manager of the best and moved him to the worst.

    Nothing happened. He made no progress. It was only when they transferred a third of his staff to the worst-performing branch that he reached a tipping point. Then he could make an impact, and the culture started to improve. 

    From this, Moira concluded that any organisation has three types of people: the believers, the non-believers and the fence-sitters. Because negativity is always stronger than positivity, you need considerably more people in the believers’ camp to get the fence-sitters off their perch and into their ranks. Once you’ve done this, the non-believers will leave because they realise their poor performance will no longer be tolerated. 

    So ensure every individual has a metric, review these daily, give social currency for success, drive out apathy, encourage accountability and build a culture of performance, reward and praise. Your flywheel will start to spin by itself, and your team will have a renewed sense of urgency to work on the things that matter. 

    Overcome the challenges stopping you from reaching your full potential. Learn more about...
    • NAVIGATING AND COMMUNICATING CHANGE
    • BUILDING COMPANY CULTURE
    • CHOOSING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES
    • ORGANISING YOUR A-TEAM

    Written by business growth coach Dominic Monkhouse. Find out more about his work here. Read his new book, ‘Mind Your F**king Business’ here.

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