Continuing our discussion on finding real-life, practical help for service managers, let’s look at our second-most common challenge: teamwork.

In my last article, I talked about employees being people first and employees second. This concept ties into all aspects of leadership for the service manager, especially when building teamwork.


So, what is teamwork? Generally speaking, teamwork is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal, which seems pretty simple, right? So, why is teamwork such a challenge for us as service managers? Why can’t we get everyone working together consistently? Why does the field team always seem to be at odds with the office team? Why does it seem there’s always someone who just doesn’t get it and distracts others?

When I was field supervisor for a commercial installation department, I volunteered to help coach my 10-year-old son’s football team. Long story short, I ended up coaching this and various other teams, with and without my kids playing, over the next decade. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my coaching experience, which continued into my professional career, is the difference between people who play simply because they happen to be on the team and those who really want to play.

Those who really want to play do the extra things you can’t always see but know happen. They give 100 percent all the time and sincerely care about the team. You know exactly what I mean here and, right now, you also know exactly who on your team really wants to play. So, how do we get adults to want to play? (Remember — people first, employees second.)


I recently read a study of more than 300,000 people in various companies and industries, and, of those surveyed, only about 15 percent could identify their manager’s top three goals. This amazes me. How can we expect people to work together for a goal they don’t know about?

The best managers I’ve been around involve their teams when establishing team goals. They communicate openly and regularly to ensure everyone understands and takes personal ownership of the goals, meaning they stand up, put the head coach hat on, and personally own the outcome. Team goals are crystal clear, measurable, agreed upon, achievable, and tracked over a specific period of time. I personally have used the symbol “M2/T” in communicating team goals, meaning they were measurable, mutually agreed upon, and implemented over a specific timeframe.

Once you clarify a goal, meet with your sub teams individually and discuss the details. Meeting in smaller groups first keeps the discussion under control and encourages individuals to share their thoughts rather than being lost in a larger group. After meeting with these sub teams, bring everyone together during a service meeting and discuss openly. Ideally, at the end of this meeting, you would come up with something to unify everyone on the goal. One company I worked with used a slogan of “Whatever it Takes” to remind everyone of their commitment to a specific goal. Everyone got a nice pen engraved with this slogan as a daily reminder of the goal.


Ever had an employee say something like, “That’s your goal, not mine.” How did that make you feel? I can pretty much guarantee any employee with that attitude isn’t playing at 100 percent. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good teammate, it just means they haven’t personally bought into the team goal. People will play for you if you care about them as a person first and employee second, it’s that simple.

Lou Holtz once said to a group of business leaders: “Strategic plans don’t excite people; dreams excite people. Every employee or team member wants to know the same thing: Do you really care about me?”

The best service managers I’ve been around know what’s important to their teammates and why. Do they need this job to support their family or do they just want to work? Do they have career goals and is this position a stepping stone for them? What are their personal goals? Where are they going and why? You don’t need to know everything about your employees, but you need to know enough to show how achieving the team goal will help them achieve their personal goals. If achieving 20 percent growth opens an opportunity for a technician to take a supervisory role, then lay this out for them; don’t assume they know. If you don’t know at least your key employee’s personal direction, ask him or her.


So, we’ve shared the goal and we’ve shown how achieving this goal ties back into their personal goals in some way. The next critical path is ensuring each teammate understands the importance of his or her role in the team’s success, Basically, this answers the question: How does what I’m doing fit in?

When the equipment/materials are on the job in order and on time, and the project comes in under budget, there are few things more discouraging than — as the warehouse manager who made this happen — not gaining the recognition you deserve.

Great service managers not only engage each teammate and ensure each person understands the importance of his or her job, exceptional managers also ensure the entire team understands how each different role works together. If you haven’t taken time to talk with your team about the importance of what each person does, you need to start talking today, and continue following up consistently. Share the wins with the entire team. Do not underestimate the importance of this step by assuming everyone just knows what each person does, as this is rarely the case.


In Franklin Covey’s book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” he examines the emotional trigger in a person that says “game on” when we keep score. We play harder when we keep and show the score. The competitive nature of people is very real.

For example, let’s say you have a business goal of achieving 95 percent retention of your service agreement clients from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2016, and your team is made aware of this goal. We could start by creating a simple spreadsheet showing our beginning point and ending point, then, simply plot our monthly and cumulative renewal rates. Print this off and put it in every employee’s mailbox after each month with a personal note of thanks. Convert the spreadsheet to a graph and show it on your screen during team meetings. The point is to show we’re winning or losing the game, so everyone can easily see our progress. If your team goal isn’t important enough to track and share results, is it really a worthy goal? Think about it.


When I was coaching youth football, we always had a post-game meeting where we talked about what had just happened. We examined what we did well, where we need to improve, and what we’ll be doing next week. When we won the game, we celebrated as a team either by going to eat or doing something special the following week at practice. (Anyone remember how great it was getting to skip wind sprints after practice?) No matter the reward, we always made a big deal of achieving our goal of winning the game. Celebrating makes it real and gives the team something to look forward to in real time.

Think about the ways you as a service manager could reward your team for achieving a goal. Gift cards are a great way to recognize an individual win. Having a team breakfast is a great reward for hitting a short-term goal. What about a cookout at the shop for reaching a quarterly milestone? What about going to a baseball game or other event for reaching a mid-year goal? These celebrations don’t have to be expensive, they just have to show you recognize and appreciate the victory. Once you start, celebrating wins becomes part of your culture and momentum builds.

Creating a culture of teamwork is a long-term process and one of the single-most-important characteristics of all great service companies I’ve been around. This may not feel comfortable at first and that’s okay — all change requires the leader to get uncomfortable to some degree. Remember, the goal isn’t simply getting people to play on the same team — it’s helping them want to play.

Publication date: 12/7/2015 

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