All important decisions and actions we take are driven by emotions. There are countless examples that show that successful leadership is achieved by those who win the hearts of their people.
The same rule applies to making any transformation happen: If you want to be followed, win their hearts. Teams leading transformations are often far more obsessed with their targets, goals, KPIs, etc.
The question is how to make transformation goals resonate with those who are actually in charge of making them happen. While there are enough theories on motivation and engagement to suit every taste and belief, we can take a look at a practical example about how achieving an ambitious savings target of over 16M, in less than one year, was made real by engaging 80 local teams.
As with any project run by Proudfoot, engaging the participating teams was the focus of the approach from the very start. Teams were the actual designers and leaders of the change about to happen.
Let them decide what’s needed:
To start with, instead of telling people what to improve, the teams were asked to generate and select their own initiatives for optimization. For many of them, this was the first opportunity to voice the ideas they’ve had in their heads for a long time. Since they knew their workplace like the back of their hands, they could easily address the most persistent pains and obstacles they faced every single day.
As one of the participating site managers said, “I enjoyed getting the team together to discuss the improvements. Some very good ideas came from colleagues who are generally quiet, and without that forum, we wouldn't have heard them. The guys enjoyed being able to get their ideas out there and pushed through to completion.”
Make the visions real:
This was not a theoretical exercise as the ideas were immediately translated into specific actions with clear realization deadlines and owners. The projection of the very specific changes and their tangible benefits gave the fuel for the teams to act.
Another site manager explained, “We enjoyed the chance for all site personnel to have input and see their ideas turned into reality.”
Let the teams own and lead it:
With any transformation, the highest burden is on middle management. In this instance, site managers and supervisors were in charge of implementing the changes. While they still remained leaders of the project for their respective sites, it was the entire team who owned and led the implementation of the specific actions, while the site managers focused on guiding and coaching.
The transformation became their very own project as one of the operators confirms, “Colleagues enjoyed having the ability to influence the decisions made on site and felt empowered by the changes.”
Support middle management and let grow:
At the same time, middle managers were not left alone. They were given individual coaching sessions during which they could get direct support responding to the challenges related to transformation and openly discuss, and work on, any managerial issues they had. The 360° feedback combined with the individual interviews with team members often enabled breakthroughs in the team relationships and in addressing issues that had been swept under the carpet for years. As a result, the transformation process was no longer associated with pain and challenge but seen as a true development opportunity with the consultants becoming trusted partners in making the impossible possible.
As the HR Manager discussed, “Coaching is an integral part of the program. It has been so positive seeing the development of employees and the communication improve across the sites.”
Keep the spirits up:
Any change leader knows the challenge of keeping up the momentum and motivation after the initial enthusiasm fades away. The challenge is even larger if we are talking about 80 participating teams located all over the country. These teams couldn’t, however, resist a constant feed of the successes and achievements of each participating site through weekly calls, newsletters, and success videos.
The good message was spread continuously, as was the offer of support and coaching whenever needed. The two elements, communication and support through individual coaching, kept the spirits up until achieving what was often thought unachievable.
“With a lot of help from the coaching team we have been able to deal with any negativity and it’s great to see how the team hass pulled together to deliver the benefits with more to come” said one Site Manager
Build the real teams:
It is sometimes thought that to build a successful team, it has to be taken to a team building event with somewhat unusual activities or therapeutic sessions of team coaching. Those may work. That said, our experience shows that nothing builds a team better than achieving demanding goals together.
Another of the site managers explains, “I have personally really enjoyed the project and it has shown that if we work together as a team we can achieve what some people thought was unachievable.”
Let it sustain:
Taking care of sustainability of the implemented changes is a key objective of any Proudfoot project. We helped the client teams with skills and tools that will support their managers long after we leave their sites. That way, we develop a team of internal coaches who became a support team for years to come.
One of the participating managers summarized it by saying, “The mindset of colleagues here has changed: we now approach things differently and this approach will now be taken forward in all we do.”
Did we manage to win their hearts? Did we manage to let their teams own the project and make it a success? We believe we did, so do the teams we worked with. The numbers affirm it: 16.5M savings in 48 weeks with 80 participating sites, 1143 initiatives, and 187 site managers and supervisors trained and coached.
“The process has got us talking more as managers, supervisors, and operatives. Would we have got 26,668 tons through the plant last Friday? Who knows? But we did and the operatives were proud of it.” – Site Manager
What if you could make your transformation goals resonate with your team?
With Proudfoot, you can.
Article by Aleksander Szojer, People Solutions Specialist, Proudfoot