Editor’s Note: What’s in it for them?

April 12, 2018 -  By

No matter what you call it, a companywide effort to run more efficiently has the potential to sound negative to the crews you’re hoping to encourage. Depending on how you deliver it, “work smarter,” “run lean” or “improve productivity” could sound like “move faster,” “work harder” or “you’re doing it wrong.” If that’s how your team members hear your message about efficiency, it won’t help you meet your goals.

Introducing an efficiency mindset into your company, as discussed in the cover story, requires a thoughtful leadership approach centered on gaining buy-in and demonstrating what’s in it for your team members.

“Most people, if you try to change something by telling them, ‘This is the way you’re going to do it,’ they’ll say, ‘That’s not going to work,’” says Jason New, a former landscape operations executive and principal with landscape consulting firm McFarlin Stanford. “So you have to change your tune.”

As Ben Gandy points out, when managers step back into the field, it quickly becomes tiresome when they start every conversion with, “‘When I was in the field, I …’”

A big part of changing your leadership tune, says New, is creating an environment where managers present team members with challenges and ask for their help with solving them.

“Propose the issue in a supportive, not blaming, way,” New says. “Ask, ‘How do we solve it? What do you think?’ And have them think of something—right, wrong or otherwise.” Next, share your idea, get feedback and suggest testing one of the ideas for a period of time.

“Certain people are more adaptable and excited about being the tester of a new idea in the company,” he says. “When you find those people, ask if they can help you make it work.”

Of course, it helps if the company has a strong vision, mission and core values, which encourage a cohesive culture.

It’s also helpful if everyone on the team knows what a “win” looks like.

“What’s the goal?” asks Dan Eichenlaub, president of Pittsburgh-based Eichenlaub Inc. “They need to know. Because if they have no clue, they think they’re doing a great job and they may not be.” He recommends using revenue per man-hour as one way to keep score.

Ultimately, leaders must explain how meeting or beating budgeted hours or hitting some other goal translates to success for the company—and ultimately for individual employees, whether that’s awards, bonuses or growth opportunities.

Novato, Calif.-based Cagwin & Dorward is moving in this direction with the leadership training program it has implemented for field leaders.

The eight-week class teaches foremen and field superintendents about key business concepts and about the company’s long-range plans, emphasizing how those translate to positions that will need to be filled. In other words, it communicates the company’s future plus what’s in it for the team—their potential paths to being promoted.

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Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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