• Bill Greider

Coaching Morale

Have you ever had the opportunity to work in an environment where everyone seems miserable all the time?

Here are some of the things you might see in such a company where (pardon my Latin) morale "sucks".

Lots of whispered conversations being conducted by people off to the side. When you come upon this phenomenon, talking ceases.There seems to be a phantom group of people with lots of power known as THEY, and it seems the whispering people spend time talking about THEY. You might overhear whisperers saying, "I told them that 5 years ago, but THEY don't listen." Or, Mary-Lou told me THEY were going to have layoffs" or "Fred was talking to Gertrude and she said THEY are going to freeze our pay."Not many smiling faces. Whatever it is people do, it must be really serious business. Always a furrowed brow by everyone, no time for chit-chat. Bosses rushing around late for another meeting, heads down, fingering their cellphones. No laughter, zero joy. No "how bout them Mets" or "particularly hot weather we're having"....nada.Nobody feels safe. Turnover is high, and it seems HR is a revolving door. If people aren't leaving, they're getting let go. or they're thinking leaving or working on it.If you stick around for any period of time, you will actually hear people come right out and say "morale around here sucks".

Before we were named one of the best companies to work in CT (5 times), I actually heard those words uttered in a shipping meeting. Gulp! How do we fix that? Bring in clowns? Beer? Card tricks? What?!?

Luckily, shortly after I overheard those 4 fateful words,  I embarked on the beginning of my lean voyage (aka Green Mile/Trip to Hell). Morale didn't stop sucking when we first started doing lean. It stopped sucking when we stopped thinking of the lean tools as the answer and started studying the Toyota Production System as an organization. (Respect for People and Continuous Improvement (kaizen) are the pillars of the TPS House). The morale really stopped sucking when we started doing A3, which is really kaizen being led by the true experts, the people who do the work.

Along with A3, I spent a lot of time coaching my assistant coaches. In TPS, they are called Group Leaders and Team Leaders, in many companies they are called Managers and Supervisors. In football they are called Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers Coach, Special Teams Coordinator, etc. I created 3 rules that can never be broken:

1. Coaches are required to bring optimism and energy with them to work every single day. Imagine if an NFL coach addressed his team by telling them things are hopeless and we don't have a prayer next Sunday?!? It is perfectly OK for someone on the line making $18/hour to have a bad day once in a while. But coaches? There is NOTHING MORE DESTRUCTIVE THAN A DISGRUNTLED LEADER. As Head Coach, I will hold assistant coaches hands to the fire if they don't demonstrate that they want to be here every day. Disgruntled coaches need to be relieved of their disgruntlement. If your coaches are glum, your players will be glum, and morale around here will suck.

2. Coaches are required to show up at GEMBA. Imagine football coaches who coach from their offices or cubicles, or are always on the phone and never go to the practice field? When my coaches and I show up at GEMBA every day, we demonstrate respect by asking questions and figuring out how to help. Help with A3s by helping A3 leaders get their teams together, help them with their forms, rehearse closing presentations, etc. Go over results for their area. If leaders don't show up and ask questions and figure out how to help, people will assume continuous improvement is not important and will stop. By showing up, people will do more kaizen, and more kaizen leads to people being together more often, which leads to trust, which leads to smiles and laughs.

3. Coaches are expected to please THEIR customer. Their customers are the people who do the value-added work. No customer pays extra because your people are well supervised. Fans don't fill stadiums to watch Matt Patricia coach the Patriot's defense. Keep in mind that in the strictest sense, all leaders are non value-added!!

The least we can do is bring optimism and energy, show up and demonstrate respect and please our customers. If all of my coaches do that daily, bye-bye bad morale!

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