During an unforeseen financial “obstacle” a few years ago while managing a team of several hundred field service professionals, I was unable to provide annual raises. Crushed at the circumstances after having just witnessed the team’s amazing performance at rolling out a huge new product line successfully, I grasped at any straw I could to soften the blow.
For years we had considered rolling out a new pay structure, wanting to reward the teams for outstanding performance that could not be equated by an hourly pay structure alone. We knew that some days our professionals truly worked their tails off while on other days, in the same amount of time, the scheduling system incidentally gave them a lighter load just due to the way the appointments fit into their day.
Wanting to capitalize on the increased production on busy days, and financially able to show the upside of motivating our professionals to be more productive when possible, we devised a pay scale that include both their current guaranteed hourly rates and in addition, a small piece rate bonus for the extra jobs they completed.
Excited to get the new pay out the door, but tenured to organizational changes, we meticulously put together supporting examples, analyzed the risks posed to rural areas with greater drive times and smaller workloads, poured over metrics, and compared multiple examples of pay rates from the previous year. When satisfied that the scale was bullet proof for all, we proceeded to get support and buy in from the top down:
- HR and the Executives stamped off on the monumental change
- Area Operations Managers agreed it was excellent
- Team Leaders in the field reviewed the plan and gave their consent. (A huge win we thought, considering they were past “field pro’s” themselves…)
…and then in our excitement, we delivered the new pay scale directly to our field professionals as, “Here is your new Pay Scale!”
So excited about the “Buy In” from all our leaders, right down to the field level supervisors, we went straight to “Delivery” rather than asking for the most important feedback of all: input from those truly affected by the change, the true stakeholders. The resistance was catastrophic.
Reflection: As we lead our organizations and professionals forward, at some point, progress will inevitably equal change. How often have we all made the error of thinking “My idea is so brilliant it’s a no-brainer, everyone will see the light and jump on board…” only to have it come crashing back down around us? In retrospect we realize again and again that we were smitten by our own romance of the idea, so much so that we played the part of the fool by rushing in.
The People Side of Things:
As I sat in a certification class for Prosci® “Change Management” a few months ago, I was spell bound… and I was devastated. It truly was an “Ah Ha!” moment. My pay scale failure came flooding back to me as I recognized that the formal process I was learning for “change” hit so very close to home: it followed the moral codes I had always tried to follow through “servant leadership”, and also answered the glitches that had caused my leadership decisions to be perceived as abominable in the past by those I wanted so desperately to serve.
I have zero hesitation in touting the value of “people” within an organization: they are absolutely our most valuable asset. Having started in the field and worked into a leadership role, my intent has always been to be a “servant leader”, often times even feeling like a “player coach.” However, good intent alone is never a silver bullet: It has made it that much harder in hindsight to know that my greatest failures could have substantially been avoided by paying more attention to the “people side of things”.
I greatly regret never having taken the time to learn a formal process for rolling out change sooner.
The Truth about the Personal Agenda:
Everyone within our teams and organizations has a personal agenda. There is no pride at the core of our narcissism, and there should be no reprimand against individuality: it just is who we are. From our first to our last breath we eat, drink, and sleep, we act in self-preservation. Without the opportunity to accept ideas that impact us, resistance is the natural reaction. The individual “buy in” is impossible to ignore, it is a built in mechanism that must be satisfied… if we hope to ever succeed with our most valuable resource: our people.
At its most basic the personal agenda for everyone is the same: we want to survive, avoid pain, and be happy. Even the most pious and virtuous amongst us is instinctually built to protect ourselves, and every group is the same: it is made up of “instinctual-self-surviving individuals” and if we understand the fact that each and every one of us acts based on “what’s in it for me”, then we can formulate ways to motivate and succeed at our own initiatives.
Scott Taylor is the Managing Consultant, Field Services at Diabsolut Inc. Our vision of “Change Management” is something that we are passionate about through the expertise and professional experiences of our consulting team. Let us inspire and support your organization through change that can mean great things to the success of your organization.
Check us out at Diabsolut.com or give us a call.