Adrian Gostick, author of The New York Times, #1 USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling leadership books, including the new The Best Team Wins, joined the QSR Nation Podcast crew to discuss how the modern workforce is evolving and what that can mean for any business including foodservice. Below is Part 1 of 2 summarizing what they discussed. For the full podcast episode (#103), visit https://pfsbrands.com/qsr-nation-podcast/.
Let’s start with your background and how you got to where you are today?
Gostick: For the past twenty years my coauthor Chester Elton and I have been researching and working with great organizations in the food and beverage industry (as well as others) to try to increase employee engagement and work on company cultures. One of the key things we’ve found through this research is that what type of culture may work in one office, might not work in another – even within the same organization. Additionally, as many know already, the differences between teams is often due to the manager and how they lead.
There are plenty of resources and great books that have been written on teamwork – unfortunately, a lot of those books were written 20 years ago. What we’ve been trying to do is understand what great teams are doing differently today, especially in the last half decade where millennials are coming into the workplace.
Do you have any real-life examples of how a manager did things RIGHT with his team to create an outstanding employee culture?
Gostick: Yes! One of the people we spoke with was Chris Hadfield, who’s an astronaut and the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station (ISS). For six months, he led his team in the ISS and not only did they have tremendous success with their scientific experiments, but in those six months his team never had a single disagreement or argument. We asked how he did it – and his answer was that he got to know his people.
Chris knew he’d have astronauts from both Russia and the United States so before the mission, he moved to each place for a while to understand his astronauts’ culture and where they grew up. He got to know all of their lives – and even learned Russian! By the time they launched themselves into space, his whole team had each other’s backs and were a solidified team.
Can you dive into the five disciplines of a great leader that you mention in your newest book with coauthor Chester Elton, The Best Team Wins?
Gostick: We tried to find the five disciplines that are different and sometimes counterintuitive than what other books say. For instance, one thing we found based on an 850,000-person study from every industry, is that the leaders of great teams challenge everything. Great leaders today are asking their teams: how can we do things better? How can we serve our customers more efficiently?
Unfortunately, many managers question employees who swim against the current or challenge processes and end up pushing them out of their teams. What we’ve found with the great team leaders we studied is that they actually embrace those people. It’s about inclusion and listening to various voices that leads to success.
How does having this strong leadership and inclusiveness help reduce turnover in the workplace, especially with all of the different demographics we now all face (Gen Xers, Millennials, Boomers, etc.)
Gostick: When you think about younger employees today – and I am going to generalize millennials here – they tend to hate when their voices aren’t heard. They have grown up in schools feeling like their voice can be heard, while for instance when I went to school, I just sat there and listened and didn’t really challenge anything.
So, with that mindset, it’s difficult for millennials to come into a workplace situation where most managers run their teams in a “I’ve done this a long time, I won’t ever really need your opinion” way, and it is demotivating to that part of the workforce.
Have you seen any examples of when good teamwork just didn’t work out?
Gostick: Yes. I like to relate it to an example of where we send our best basketball players in the world to the Olympics and they come back with the bronze medal. These guys should have crushed everyone by fifty points and collectively they are the most talented athletes - but they didn’t work together.
What we found (and this was backed up by studies from both Harvard and Google) is that people in the best teams have “psychological safety.” They feel that they can be themselves with their teammates, they are vulnerable with each other, and no certain voice or voices dominate the conversation.
What are the few simple steps a leader can do to help create more teamwork in their business?
Gostick: One of the first things we need to understand is that historically, a reason that many don’t see any movement overall in employee engagement scores is that we’ve been doing it wrong. We have been worried about the masses and try to implement employee recognition programs (which are all good!) but they are not specific to an individual.
I am personally driven by creativity and working autonomously, while I have someone on my team whose number one motivator was friendship. When thinking of who to send to a trade show to get the latest ideas and connect with people, why wouldn’t I go with my employee instead of myself? What we find is that the best managers get to know their people on a very individual basis.
As leaders, we can’t try to force people to all be the same. It may sound like a little more work, but retention and engagement increase when we figure out what drives our people; we call it “managing to the one.”
You mentioned in your book that you found that managers with more inclusiveness in their leadership approach can increase their team’s performance by as much as 30 percent. Can you expand on that?
Gostick: One example is Caterpillar, a $47 billion-dollar company that’s implemented this inclusive leadership approach and found that managing in the softer ways can produce some tremendous benefit to the organization.
Caterpillar has tens of thousands of employees, but started this system with just one factory. A year after they implemented the program, they had an $8.8 million increase in revenue and 70% increase in customer satisfaction.