Rewind to a few years ago. We were around the same card table. We had the same meeting with a few less people. In that meeting, the spirit and feeling was different. There was less trust, less energy, less accountability, and no fun. Each technician was only concerned with their route and schedule and not the company as a whole. Each office person was concerned about their hours, their job, and their work. Work was a dread and contention between employees and management was strayed.
So what made the change? What moved the needle from bad to good. As an inside participant and a manager observe, I see 4 big changes to moved the culture at Western Pest Control.
- Removed the negative apples. One burnt out technician that thinks there is nothing left to learn can suck the energy and focus out of room and a company. Sometimes negative employees can bring down an entire company. I have seen it happen. It is really terrible. To test if an employee is bringing everyone down, hold a meeting or two without that person. See how it goes. Feel the energy. You will know if something needs to be done or you can bring them back in.
- Remove obstacles for cooperation. I am a competitor. I like to match myself with others in my field and win. This competitive nature leads me to create compensation and programs that reward the individual and punish the team. These zero-sum games only drive a wedge between the employees and keep them from working together. It is easy to say “the tech with the most new cleanouts gets a bonus.” Or say “The lowest Call Back Ratio in the company gets a ipod.” These seem like they are motivating and building, but they are doing the opposite. They teach employees that the only way I can win is if my co-workers lose. It is no bueno. As soon as I starting making bonuses reliant on individual and team performance, the culture improved. People started working together. We all made more money. Employees used all their resources to accomplish what none of them could do on their own. Employees will fight for you as their boss, but they will kill themselves working hard for a teammate if the right incentives are in place.
- Build trust. There is nothing more de-motivating that a boss that is not being loyal to his team. In 15 years, I have had payroll late one time. Once was enough. There was accounting problems and payroll was too messed up to cut checks . The paychecks needed to be payed on Monday instead of on Friday. This single event changed the culture at Western. Technicians and office staff alike could not trust that they were going to be paid. In their minds, it was a 50/50 chance each week whether or not I could be trusted to get them paid. It took a year or more to rebuild that trust. Bosses need to be loyal.
- Having consistent one-on-one meetings with employees builds a relationship that is crucial to solving problems. Every two weeks, I sit down with every employee and chat about how they are doing. We talk about them and we talk about their work. I hear their concerns. I understand their background a little better. I have time to build a relationship. That relationship is tested when tough times come for that employee. I don’t lose employees to other companies because I have a chance to talk to them and meet their needs before they become frustrated enough to leave. Tough times will come, and if there is no relationship, it is difficult to move quickly to solve the problem.