Getting the Pit Crew Involved

In continuing the quest for a strategy for having an efficient meeting, let’s look at where most of the real answers to for most successful business strategies begin.

Again, using our NASCAR analogy, I would like to take some time exploring the talent of the pit crew. In most cases, the driver, although extremely skilled in their profession, would not be as successful if it were not for a fast, efficient, flexible, and adaptable pit crew. Personally, I am amazed at the amount of tasks a good pit crew can conduct in lightening speed and astounding accuracy. The same is true with most successful businesses.

Let’s take a look at one of the more successful companies during our current generation: Apple Inc. Although Steve Jobs is hailed as an amazing CEO, in numerous interviews and publications, Jobs sites the true success of Apple’s comeback to the team. As the driver, Jobs is the one who gets to hold the trophy, wave to adoring fans, and be the face of the racing team known as Apple, but to his credit, he knows he is only one part of the success. Granted, his vision and drive have had a definite impact on the company’s success, but it is the ingenuity of the team and the “bottom-up” idea flow that allows Apple to remain at the cutting edge of trendy technology.

So what does this mean for the average manager or leader? Quite simply put, stop believing you have all the answers. Your pit crew knows your car’s (your business) inner workings most likely better than you do. If an odd noise begins to show itself, it will be one of the pit crew members who will be able to simply listen to problem and quickly identify it. Rather than organizing a meeting where you sit as the talking head, try allowing yourself only to be responsible for asking questions. Be the one to guide and coach, but let your team bring something to the meeting. If you were to open up the floor for ideas or information sharing, you might find yourself receiving any, if not all of the following:

  • Intel from the field on competitors
  • Real time customer feedback
  • Unique ideas on how to solve a potential “noise” from the engine
  • Better ways to become efficient or more competitive
  • Ideas on how to better streamline inter-team communication and connection

The truth is, you have one of two choices: be a manager or be a leader. Most any common American worker wants to go work for a leader, not a manager. A manager is consumed with process oriented meetings. They tend to enjoy picking apart processes and believe this is the sole measure needed to ensure success. Although I will tend to agree that correctly managing processes in terms of productivity, efficiency and enhanced client experience is dire to any organization, it should not be the sole focus of every meeting. Unfortunately, managers do not understand that.

Leaders, true leaders, will understand the value of having productive and often collaborative meetings with their team. Just ponder this question: Who touches the client more, you or your pit crew? So if there is a decrease in sales or client satisfaction, who would be better able to provide a more decisive or accurate reason for the decrease? Chances are, the pit crew would have some pretty decent ideas on how to swing the pendulum.

So how do you involve the Pit Crew in your meetings?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Prior to the meeting, send out any points or problems you intend to cover. It would be preferable to have this out to your team at least a day prior to the meeting.
  2. If there is a problem or dilemma you would like to address, outline it briefly to the team and invite them to have suggestions on how to address it and invite them to bring these ideas to the meeting for further discussion. Here are a couple of ground rules for this, however:
    1. This time should be a “no slam” zone. Issues should be addresses to seek resolution, not blame.
    2. Don’t be alarmed if the conversations become highly emotional. You want your people to be passionate about resolution. Encourage healthy debate, again, as long as the goal is resolution of a key issue and not who will take the blame.
    3. You might want to use a timer in some cases. Adding the time constraint increases the competition among the group and might force some of those who are normally quieter speak up. Additionally, it keeps the meeting from dragging on and on, despite how much fun these types of meetings can be.
  3. Save discussions on processes for the last portion of the meeting. Lead in with recent accomplishments and spend the bulk of the meeting on brain storming. Brain storming should not be centered on processes, but it should be focused rather on problem resolution and idea creation. Challenge and empower the pit crew to bring ideas on how to become more competitive, how to enhance your product line or delivery, how to increase client satisfaction, and the list could go on.

I hope you try at least one of these methods with your team. You might be surprised with some of the very simple, yet genius ideas and solutions that come from your pit crew. An added benefit will be the energy and passion you discover buried in your team. I would be interested in hearing your feedback! Please comment.

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.

For my professional resume, click here

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