What Makes Your Business Matter!
If there is a first and most important question every business leader and entrepreneur needs to ask himself and answer, it is definitely this: What makes your business matter?
And the answer? Simple: your people!
But are you fostering a business and work environment for your employees where they can thrive and feel like they matter? Do all your employees feel empowered and appreciated? These, too, are important questions that need to be asked and answered.
Several years ago, I did a team building exercise at a large manufacturing plant. It took less than 15 minutes to conduct. I filled a large bucket with ice water. I took three volunteers and had them take off their shoes and roll up their pant legs. Then I asked them to meet me in the conference room away from their fellow workers. The first volunteer was offered $20 to get to one minute with his feet immersed in the ice water. He of course was able to accomplish this with some ease, although you could see the pain in his face. The quick lesson was that he pulled his feet out of the ice water almost immediately after he hit the goal of one minute. I informed the team that money will get you the minimum. For he had no incentive to go past one minute and I did not offer to pay him more to go farther.
The second volunteer was told that if he didn’t beat the previous volunteer’s time, I was going to be very disappointed, punish him and possibly fire him! I also encouraged the team to heckle the volunteer and make him feel insignificant if he couldn’t achieve the goal of beating the previous volunteer. Although he also was in obvious pain, he made it to the one-minute mark and uttered a few choice comments back at his fellow associates (all in good humor, of course!). Then he immediately removed his feet once he surpassed the goal. The lesson here was you can get what you need but will not build loyalty and will make the employee feel insignificant.
For the last volunteer, we had to prep the team. So, I asked them to encourage him and cheer him on during the test. We even played some motivational music! It was Eye of the Tiger time and the final countdown. Good stuff, for sure! I then asked the volunteer to do his best. I even told him how hard it was and that I would be happy with whatever time he produced. But I believed he was going to crush the previous time. I walked him into the room while massaging his shoulders (as if we were heading into the octagon for a UFC fight!). The team started chanting his name: Billy! Billy! Billy! He was well over four minutes immersed in the frigid water when I decided to shut it down. Clearly, he could have done it all day!
We all enjoyed the experience and had some fun with it. But what we decided collectively was that we would always remember to encourage and help one another in order to build cohesion and team spirit. Even today, many years later, that business has one of the best, most-established teams I have ever worked with. I don’t want to single them out, but “The Midnight Rider” and “The Man from Purdue” still achieve success month after month.
What I suggest to you is consider your team environment and try the bucket of cold-water exercise. It’s an effective tool. But most of all, I advise to build your team and remember to always encourage all its members to do their very best!