The worst assumption a leader can make is that every team member is on the same page. That elusive “same page” lists gotta-get-it-done stats, including: the company’s percentage to goal for the month, productivity rate, pre-book rate, orders shipped, etc. Simply put, that “same page” is pure team progress – not individual progress. It’s what the team needs to achieve collectively. This “same page” data is so critical that it is the centerpiece of daily huddles. And yes, daily huddles are a non-negotiable in all companies.
The first reaction many leaders have to the concept of daily huddles is that they are too much of a hassle to execute, that they already share information and that employees just won’t engage in them. With the utmost respect, there is no justifiable excuse not to embrace daily huddles. No doubt adjustments will need to be made to make daily huddles work – especially when it comes to thinking, behavior and accountability. The very first adjustment is to shift from “it won’t work in my company” to “we’ll do whatever it takes” thinking.
Here are my no-compromise strategies to make daily huddles work in your company – and a few tips on how to refine the process if you’re already doing them:
- Daily huddles are about energy and urgency: Quarterly meetings mean four points of team information-flow contact a year. Lets hear one big yawn for quarterly meetings. Monthly meetings mean 12 points of information-flow contact a year. Yup, give monthly meetings another yawn. Weekly meetings mean 52 points of team information-flow contact a year. Just a little yawn here. Now, imagine 365 points of fast information-flow contact with team members per year – that’s energy and urgency. Just remember, monthly, quarterly and weekly meetings are still essential but very different in format and purpose than daily huddles.
- Daily huddles are fast: Five to ten minutes max. Never allow a huddle to turn into a meeting. If questions or comments are raised that fall outside the focus of the huddle, simply put them in the “parking lot” for offline discussion later. It’s still important to address the stuff in the parking lot – you’re not avoiding, you’re simply keeping huddles focused and allowing the necessary time to address concerns and answer questions.
- Daily huddles are about “information flow” for the day: Huddles define what the day looks like and what it needs to look like. It’s a moment to celebrate team and individual successes. Balance it between the numbers (daily scoreboard) and stuff your team needs to know about the day ahead – including any potential obstacles.
- Daily huddles are about making incremental adjustments to win the game: Think of business as a game that takes twelve months to play. Each month is played against the monthly goal. Each day is like a play in football and before each play is a huddle to ensure that every player knows what’s going to happen and what to do. If your company isn’t 50% to goal by the 15th of the month, it needs to adjust its strategy and urgency.
- Daily huddles are about the scoreboard: Your company can’t win the game if you are the only one that knows the score (you do know your score…don’t you?). I’ve seen scoreboards in all shapes and sizes from nothing-but-the-facts Excel files to artful thermometers and buckets where the previous day’s progress is colored in. Find a format that works best for your company. Mix it up from time to time. Please allow employees to exercise their creativity to design scoreboards. FACT: Avoiding the huddle and just posting scoreboards and notices means the information will only be read by few and remain essentially invisible to most. That’s just the way it is. No compromise.
- Huddles are consistent and respected: Huddles should be held in the same place each day. They should be standing, no phones, no food… everyone focused. Huddles prepare your people to conquer the day. Respect means never being late for huddle… especially the leader.
- Huddles are not all-empowering events: I often hear owners ask for ideas to liven up their huddles. The best way to do this is to mix it up by allowing different leaders within your company to run the team huddle. By switching up the huddle leadership, you allow individuals to bring their unique energy to the huddle. Remember to celebrate even the smallest wins and spotlight employees that displayed above and beyond behavior and/or performance. There’s no reason for a huddle to be boring other than not preparing – or forgetting their importance.
- Huddles and schedules: The first excuse to not do huddles is about employee schedules and shifts. There are companies with hundreds employees, open seven days a week, doing daily huddles. They do one main huddle to start the day and one or two additional to cover all shifts. First question is who sets the schedules – leadership or employees? Scheduling must meet the needs of the company and customer demand first, and employees second. If you build work schedules around the endless individual needs of employees, not only will huddles never work, but your company’s performance and productivity will be compromised as well.
- Huddles and employee resistance: When employees don’t see the value in daily huddles, it’s usually because they’ve been playing the “I/me/mine” game for far too long. Give them time to adjust their thinking and embrace the culture shift.
Every leader and owner that has embraced daily huddles experiences measurable impact on revenue and performance. And what’s more, they would never give up on daily huddles. Even owners that fought the system acknowledge the difference daily huddles have made in their companies. No compromise.
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