There are a few things that all public power utilities have in common. They all want to enhance corporate results, boost morale, strengthen customer service and increase customer retention.
But not all of them take advantage of a simple concept to achieve these goals – teamwork.
A utility can realize significant accomplishments if all of its employees work together and feel like they belong, like they are part of something. Here are some tips on how to strengthen your utility’s teamwork.
What is the vision or mission? If your utility has a mission statement, I’m going to ask you to test yourself right now. Without pulling the statement off the wall in the lobby, can you write it word for word? If you called anyone in your company, from a lineman to accounts payable, could they give you the essence of the statement? There’s a reasonable possibility many would fail this test.
Does every staff member know your utility’s official mission, understand the direction of the company and comprehend their role in helping to accomplish this mission? If you don’t have a mission or goal, get your staff involved in the creation of one. With a team-developed mission statement, they are more apt to create one they really believe in and support.
Building a team is a process. You can’t put people together, give them a project and expect that everything will come out just fine. Blending personalities and needs in a work environment while trying to accomplish the end goal is not an easy task. It can, however, be made much easier if everyone is on the same team.
One of the most important skills people need is the ability to communicate. Teaching someone to be part of a team and to feel comfortable in communicating openly and honestly is a learned skill. Use professional trainers and facilitators to help your employees develop the skills and the understanding to become an effective team.
Survey the team. Survey everyone in the company every six months. How does each and every employee rate the communication, support, trust and recognition that they receive as part of the team? What do they like about working for the company? What do they dislike about working for the company? Ask your employees what suggestions they have for improving the effectiveness of the teamwork at your utility.
Every team needs a coach. Every sports team from Little League to the majors has a coach who is the guiding force that brings out the best in each player. The coach works to bring a group of individuals, each with their own personality and values about communication, trust and support, into a cohesive unit that works together for a common goal.
What is the coach like on your team? Does he or she respect the individuals that make up the team? Is he or she constantly providing positive feedback to the team when they are doing well? Does your coach also provide constructive feedback to the team when it’s needed? Being a coach is a difficult job.
Model a team that is already successful. So where do you start? Perhaps the idea of creating a team is a new concept at your utility. What other companies in your industry have developed a successful team culture? If you can’t find anyone in your industry, look outside to other industries.
I know I’ve written about Southwest Airlines before and I’m going to do it again because it has an amazing team spirit. If you want to see teamwork in action, watch what happens when a Southwest Airlines jet arrives at the gate. When the plane has come to a stop, everyone on that team knows exactly what his or her role is and moves quickly to complete it. Each one of them knows how important it is to get the plane back in the air.
If Southwest Airlines can create a culture that fosters a spirit of teamwork in a company of more than 35,000 people, I believe that any utility can model their principles and achieve similar results.
Provide team recognition. When I conduct a seminar, I often ask how many of the participants like to be recognized for their efforts. Almost without exception, every hand in the room goes up. I then ask how many have been recognized in the last 60 days. I’m lucky if a couple of hands are still raised. Nearly all the hands disappear and suppose their spirits drop a little, too.
We all like to be recognized for our efforts. Yet many utilities are weak when it comes to recognizing the players on their team on a consistent basis. Establish a process to recognize your team and the individuals on it. Do it often. Recognition doesn’t have to be monetary compensation to be effective. Ask your team how they would want to be recognized for doing a great job. Their answers may surprise you.
One of the top two reasons people stay with a company is because they feel like they are part of the organization. Do your employees feel like they are involved, like they are part of the organization, that they make a difference?
If not, you could be sacrificing more than you think – the quality of your customer service, the bottom line, and morale and perhaps even more than that. Teamwork is a simple concept that more public utilities need to embrace. I think more of them would if they understood how critical teamwork is to their success.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skills training for utilities. He can be reached at 888-644-5499 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Measure-X Web site at www.measure-x.com.