What do you do when you have a negative work environment and low productivity? HR managers talk about unresolved conflict, toxic outbursts of people blaming one another, and people just being mean to one another. As time goes on, productivity and profits suffer, and another round of blaming occurs. We call this the downward spiral.
Early in my career I got a chance to work with a big law office, and the managing attorney contacted me complaining about the lack of productivity and attention to detail by the team. He was a brilliant immigration attorney, and a strong advocate for immigrant rights in the community.
During my strategy session, I learned that the company had recently entered bankruptcy and needed a quick turnaround. I realized that he had a strong dominant personality style and expressed anger when he vented. Frustrated that his people just wouldn’t do right, he would tell them over and over and over and over again how to do things; they still weren’t listening. Documents were not being filed properly and his trial binders were not organized correctly. In front of the judge his exhibits numbers were in total disarray and he was at risk of severely damaging his reputation. His clients were beyond angry, many stopped paying their bills, and he started bringing a gun with him to work.
I started the strategy discussion by asking him about his business systems and operations manual. I discovered that he did not have a comprehensive operations manual for his office. In addition, he did not have reliable cashflow metrics and projections. He had always wanted to do that stuff it but he was just was too busy. I quoted business guru Michael Gerber –“The system is the solution” – the belief that everybody needs easy to follow, clear guidelines on how to do every aspect of the work in the office. I gave him my first strategy suggestion – I want you to start regularly collaborating with your staff to create an operations manual, and do weekly updates on the guidelines. Incorporate all the big breakdowns and failures and thank the staff for their participation. Then I asked about his leadership style. He confided in me that he was losing his temper and yelling in the office, and he felt bad about that. He was willing to do whatever it took to turn things around.
Communicative Workplace Solutions
So, I gave him my next strategy recommendation. You need quarterly engagement trainings using the disc personality style assessment with the whole staff to rebuild trust and improve communication. He agreed, and during the first training he shared what it was like for him being a Dominant personality style, and was candid about his challenges in slowing down, listening and giving praise. He learned that most of his staff members had the steadiness personality styles, and they had a natural tendency to avoid conflict and value workplace harmony. There was a powerful “AHA” moment when they realized what was going on interpersonally. In that training everybody practiced adapting their communication to one another. During the experiential exercise he figured out how to be less confrontational and solicit their ideas and listen more. He modeled a new way of working together, and it was actually lots of fun. He started executive coaching with me to work on strategic leadership skills like adapting his communication, fee setting, making time to work on the operations manual, and how to track the money and do cashflow projections. We also talked about work life balance and he made commitments to himself to improve his quality of life.
What it’s like now
I tell you, big things happen when leaders get engaged and walk their talk. He built up the operations manual over a couple of months into a comprehensive Company Bible on how to do things, and it included the DiSC, QBQ and reflective listening skills.The new levels of integrity and accountability drove away some staff, and he was able to replace them with new team members who appreciated his passion, attention to detail and commitment to quality. We actually trained him in our Power Hire protocol based on the DiSC system that he really liked. He completely redesigned his fee structures, and six months after entering bankruptcy, the company had the best month ever. He fired a bunch of clients, refunded fees, started leaving the gun at home, and in a year had opened up two more offices across the state. Before the training he hadn’t taken a vacation in eight years, and now I see his Facebook posts skiing with his family in Colorado and diving in Mexico.
So if you’re team is having a problem with the downward spiral, we can help. We have a two minute team assessment that you can take on our website www.transformativetraining.com. Then schedule your 20 minute strategy session with us online and can discuss what’s going on with your team and develop a training program that is proven to increase your profits, productivity and job satisfaction. If you meet with us today we will send you a proposal tomorrow. Don’t delay, do something different, we can help.