04 Mar Are you a cheerleader or a player?

field player or cheerleaderHere are three short stories to prove a point.

Last week a new Toronto employee needed a computer drive mapped.  The employee asked for help from a few team members in the office but received the answer “I can’t do that.”  The fact is, however, a quick Google search on the phrase “how to map a drive in windows 7” returns viable results in less than 10 seconds.

Last year, a newly-hired employee had to be dismissed. This person clearly did not match up with our values. Upon reviewing some of the emails that had been sent by this team member, it is clear that at least four other team members could have approached senior management to say, “This is a really bad hire and we need to take action immediately.” 

Recently one of our fax machines (yes, some clients still send orders to us this way) stopped working.  Given that we have two machines in the office, I did not see this as an issue I needed to fix. At 3:30pm I enquired as to its progress and the answer I received was that we had not received faxes all day. I will not go into details but with another working fax machine connected and on site, I was able to resolve the problem in 5 minutes.

How did we get here?

I question how we as a company got to the point where the president needs to step in to replace a broken fax machine with a new one when it should have been obvious to all employees in the office that the machine had been strangely quiet all day. I question also, why my team members were hesitant to come forward with their concerns regarding the new hire who did not fit. I question further why a computer problem with a simple and easily accessible solution was not resolved through self-directed initiative. The answer, I believe, is that as a leader, I should have put much more effort into developing my team members. 

Developing team members:

I was discussing a similar type of employee-related management issue with my coach from CEO Global last week, and his answer was, “You have to expect that with a new hire.” When I told him that the team member in question had a few years’ seniority, he could not believe it. From the outside it is clear we in leadership have to do a better job in developing our team members.  We must not only expect, but must also demand much more from an individual who has been with us for four years than we might from someone who has been with us for one year or less.  If we do not, then it reflects poorly on me as a leader and rightly so. This in turn makes it harder to hire good new talent, since a perception of poor leadership can easily discourage them.

Removing the blinders:

At Qualifirst, as with many other companies it is natural for employees to willingly box themselves into relatively simple jobs that consist of exactly the types of tasks they want to do, where anything they cannot do or do not like to do becomes someone else’s job. I realize I must now take my blinders off and face this problem.

I need to become a better leader. I need to ensure we receive top performance from every member of the team. My job as a leader is to make sure everyone is asked “is this the best you can do?” and that we accept no less. 

In professional sports such as football and basketball, many teams have cheerleaders. These cheerleaders make less than minimum wage and often have to buy their own uniforms, while the average NFL player makes $1.9M and the average NBA player makes $5.4M a year.

Getting on the field:

Every single member of the Qualifirst team needs to get on the field and play. An engaged player is very valuable, but a cheerleader is not. I have challenged every one of my team members to ask themselves whether they are a team player or a cheerleader.

Leading a company is like being a good sports coach. You need to do everything you can to help make your players be the best they can be. You never stop and you never give up as long as you have a team in front of you. A coach needs a team where each player contributes in order to win.

So I have challenged my team members to come out onto the field and play their best game. I have revamped my commitment to be the best coach I can be, and my vision is, together we can move to that place where the “best” is the only position we have.

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