The 7-T Success System
In the first blog of this series, I introduced The 7-T Success System, an easy-to-use guide for leaders at all levels of the organization, from supervisor to CEO. As a reminder, the seven T’s are:
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
The 7-T Success System is designed as a guide for those who have the desire and drive to become a leader who inspires others to work toward a common goal. The 7-T Success System provides a comprehensive framework to help leaders identify the right things to focus on and provides a roadmap for doing those things in the right way. The 7-T Success System helps employees at all levels identify what comprises great leadership, how to achieve it, and how to leverage it to drive accomplishment and build high-performing teams.
In the last blog, we focused on TOOLS and discussed the importance of ensuring your people (talent) have the right facilities, technology and materials (tools) to execute their daily tasks (technique) as efficiently and effectively as possible. In prior blogs, we’ve discussed several of the other T’s of the 7-T Success System, starting with TARGETS, then moving to TALENT, TECHNIQUE and TOOLS. The next T we will focus on in this blog is TONE. Tone is the organization’s culture. It is the shared way your team members will approach their jobs every day. TONE is critical to building a winning team, whether it is the entire organization, or a team of frontline agents. An organization’s “tone” consists of the accepted norms, values, attitudes and behaviors of the group.
One of the reasons the 7-T Success System works so well is because it reminds the leader to spend time addressing all 7 of the components that affect the performance and ultimate success of his/her team. Most leaders, and especially frontline line supervisors, spend most of their time focused on TECHNIQUE, including “how” their employees are completing their tasks, handling escalations, completing paperwork, etc. There is no doubt that they should spend most of their time on these various processes/tasks, but to build a truly great team a supervisor must also address the other T’s, including setting targets, ensuring the right talent is in place, providing the best tools to complete tasks and creating and cultivating a TONE (culture) that will provide the right type of environment for people to thrive and maximize their productivity and growth potential.
Characteristics of a great team’s TONE, or culture include:
- Trust and Honesty
- Performance-based targets
- Continuous Improvement
Leaders who instill these values into their teams and practice them on a daily basis have the best chance of creating a TONE that gives them and their employees the best opportunity for individual and group success. Contact center supervisors lead teams who interact with the business’s customers and are often the first, and sometimes only, human contact the customers will experience with the organization and its brand(s). Brands can be made or broken at every customer touchpoint and more often than not the contact center agent is “touchpoint one”. The team’s TONE, good or bad, that is created and cultivated by the supervisor will ultimately permeate into every customer transaction.
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace” – Douglas Conant
Utilizing the 7-T Success System to build and cultivate winning teams is itself a valuable piece of a team’s TONE. By ensuring you are providing your team with clear targets, hiring the right people, utilizing the best technique and tools, etc. sends a message to your team that you care about their success. On the other hand, supervisors who do not bother to set targets and provide regular feedback, who do not monitor the effectiveness of the team’s tools and the other T components, give a clear message that they do not care. These supervisors lack ambition, accountability and certainly do not value continuous improvement.
“Positive work environments outperform negative work environments.” – Daniel Goleman
Setting the TONE for a team is not as daunting as it may seem. The first step is to explain to the team the importance of TONE, ideally within the context of the 7-T Success System. Next, describe and discuss the characteristics (norms, values, attitudes and behaviors) that are expected from every team member. Then, ensure that you are reinforcing those characteristics on a daily basis, by rewarding and recognizing those team members whose actions are exemplifying the established TONE characteristics, and counseling those who’s behaviors aren’t.
The Organization’s Tone Must Be Cultivated and Reinforced
An organization’s tone must be cultivated and reinforced every day by everyone. It only takes a few instances of senior managers not living up to the organization’s Tone values to negatively impact all other employees. It also doesn’t take long for one frontline employee’s negative behaviors to contaminate the rest of the team. It’s important that leaders at all levels not only set the tone but also reinforce it personally and through actions, every day.
One of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to help build and create a successful Tone. She taught my fellow group leaders and me about the importance of truly taking care of our employees, well beyond pats on the back and monthly rewards programs.
Our office was located in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and during the winter months, temperatures would drop below 20 degrees for weeks at a time. It was brutal. Employees found it difficult to get to work in the morning and to leave the office for lunch. We were all preoccupied with the weather and its impact on our families and ourselves.
Before leading a $500 million catalog company, our CEO had majored in psychology at the University of Minnesota. Noting what a distraction the weather had become, she gathered the leadership team for a meeting. She told us that so much of her success was due to lessons learned in psychology classes and she wanted to share one of those lessons with us. She drew Maslow’s pyramid on a chalkboard and explained it.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Physiological Needs—The first level of the hierarchy is physiological. This includes the most basic human needs, such as breathing, food, water, and sleep. Maslow’s theory states that unless these basic needs are being met, a person is solely motivated to fulfill them. An employee isn’t focused on winning the employee of the month award if they are starving, sleep-deprived or unable to breathe. A leader must ensure that employees aren’t worried about any of these basic physiological needs. This seems pretty obvious, but you may recall times when you or members have your team have been distracted due to being hungry, tired or unable to use a restroom when needed.
Safety Needs—After a person’s physiological needs are met, the next thing they’ll focus on is ensuring their safety, which refers to things such as an employee’s physical safety, job security and benefits. Leaders must eliminate anything that may cause their employees to feel threatened, like other people (employees or non-employees), the environment or their financial situation. Employees who are concerned about their safety or security cannot focus on the organization’s Targets.
Love/Belonging—The next level is termed love/belonging. This level is based on feeling included in something, whether it’s a family, team or relationship. A leader should ensure that everyone in the organization experiences feelings of acceptance and connection. Without a feeling of belonging, employees can’t move to the next level within the hierarchy, where real productivity gains take place.
Esteem—At the next level, esteem, an employee needs to feel a sense of competence and respect from others and respect for himself. This is where awards and recognition take place, as well as certifications, badges, and other tangible tokens of employee accomplishment. These activities are important for organizations to provide, but only after the prior three levels have been satisfied.
Self-Actualization—What follows should be a solid plan for fulfilling the final level of the pyramid. At the final level, self-actualization, a person desires to grow and learn more, contribute beyond the basic job requirements, offer new ideas and teach others. The goal of each leader should be to move every employee to this stage.
The leadership team talked about how the hierarchy applied to our employees’ current situation in the winter weather, and we developed a plan. Over the next few weeks, of one of the coldest winters in Minnesota history, we moved dozens of employee families into hotels near the office due to frozen/burst pipes, furnaces not working and cars not starting. We bought extra heaters and warm clothes for the team working outside in the warehouse shipping areas and made sure they came inside frequently. On several occasions, we arranged more than 100 hotel rooms for employees stuck at work due to hazardous driving conditions. We brought meals into the office every day so that employees didn’t have to leave the office and drive on treacherous roads.
Once we had ensured our employees and their families were taken care of from a physiological and safety standpoint, we were then able to engage in the other motivational activities we normally did. And it was interesting to observe that all the usual motivational programs seemed to have more participation, enthusiasm, and appreciation than they did during normal times. Was this jump in engagement due to our employees feeling taken care of and safe? Maslow would have likely come to this conclusion.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis
If you’re already a leader, or are an aspiring leader, you don’t want to simply manage your team or organization; you want to lead it and build a winning team. The fact that you’ve taken the time to read this blog means you’re ready to accelerate your organization’s success journey and demonstrate your value as a leader. The 7-T Success System can help you accomplish that. Let’s go, leaders!
Casey Kostecka is an award-winning thought leader and expert in sales, customer experience management and contact center operations within BPO/outsourcing, healthcare, travel/hospitality, and government arenas. His proven track record in leading $500M+ organizations to record-breaking growth and profitability makes him a sought-after speaker and consultant. Casey’s extensive experience with process engineering, leadership cultivation, and team and customer engagement led him to develop unique, highly effective tools. Casey is the founder of TouchPoint One and its award-winning ACUITYTM Performance Management System, multiple proprietary gamification applications, and the 7-T Success System™ are all of which are employed by Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States. Learn more about his work at www.touchpointone.com and www.7TSuccess.com.