Anna had been working for us for several weeks now, and it just wasn’t working out.
The signs of team frustration were appearing again, and I felt that I was beginning to make excuses for our new team member. To be effective, management needs the trust of the team. When the team begins to feel that their leader is protecting and making excuses for a team member, that leader begins to lose the trust of the team members. It was very expensive to send our most highly compensated, senior technician to a client site, where a junior technician was already working. Not only were we losing money every time this happened, but my team was losing trust in my decision making and becoming increasingly frustrated.
Before Anna, it was Richard, who abruptly resigned after less than 60 days, and before Richard, it was Jim. Why couldn’t we successfully add a new team member to help grow the business?
I pulled out an organizational chart of my team, and I saw each of our staff members in a two-dimensional box with their names and titles. As I scanned their names, I smiled as I considered the strengths they brought to our team – strengths that could not be contained in the small boxes on my organizational chart. I recalled why I’d hired Anna. I thought of her kind demeanor, her determination to acquire new skills, change careers, and succeed in a new field.
That’s when I realized that I’d created an impossible job description, one that only a few humans could successfully carry out, and I had trapped myself and my team in an endless cycle of hiring to find someone with a growing and rare combination of requirements.
I needed to introduce an innovation into my business and lower the barrier to entry for a new team member. This innovation also needed to allow my business to grow. I considered why I’d hired Anna, the character strengths she possessed: her love of learning, bravery, kindness, humility and gratitude. These strengths may not have been successful when standing face-to-face with an agitated client who wanted an immediate solution, but those same traits seemed like a perfect fit for answering a technical hotline. Clients usually call us because a computer isn’t working, and they communicate emotions of anxiety and frustration when they can’t do their own jobs. Our clients needed–they deserved–a kind, brave and knowledgeable voice to answer their calls for help and begin a remote diagnosis to solve their computer problems.
I quickly drafted a new job description, along with new procedures for a technical hotline for our clients. I’d asked our clients to call an answering service to leave a message about the computer problem they were having. Now their call would be answered live by our technical hotline manager. Anna would assure our client that she’d escalate the call to an appropriate next level technician, if she could not help the client resolve the issue remotely, and then proceed to try and fix the problem remotely. It turned out that what was hard to do face-to-face with an agitated client, was much easier to do remotely–and MUCH faster.
After talking to Anna about my intention to change her job description, and getting her agreement, I called a meeting of our entire team and announced this change effective immediately. In a short time, these new procedures significantly reduced the cost of maintaining our professional technical staff, as we were able to multiply the effectiveness of our team through the thoughtful and patient efforts of our new, technical hotline manager. It also increased client satisfaction because Anna’s voice and demeanor were more aligned with handling frantic or agitated callers, than those of my more experienced technicians. Soon my clients were asking for Anna by name and not demanding an immediate escalation to our senior technicians. That’s when I knew we’d solved the dilemma, our endless cycle of hiring had come to an end and we could focus on company growth.
As you review your organizational chart, consider adding the top five character strengths of each of your staff members to your chart, and not just their names and titles. This provides you a three dimensional view of your team members and your organizational needs. Many times a staffing problem lies with a job description, one that over time grows to become “the impossible job”. If you as the team leader are facing an endless cycle of hiring, it may be time to re-imagine your service offering while also considering the strengths of your existing staff, the barriers to entry for new staff members, and the evolving marketplace challenges. If you can lower the barriers to entry for new team members, reduce turnover, meet your clients’ service expectations, and allow your company to grow–then your company will be light-years ahead of your competition who are unable to re-imagine their service offering and innovate in this way.
BOLDbreak has one purpose, and that is to provide team leaders and company owners the tools and training they need, to develop an unstoppable Surging Team, a team that repeatedly succeeds in achieving difficult and important company objectives. When teams win, increased company profitability follows! Contact me today and let’s discuss the recurring hiring challenges that you’re facing. It may be that you’ve created an Impossible Job Description, and its time to re-imagine your organization and your service in order to begin growing again.
Until then, Keep Winning!