Little things make a big difference, and there are critical moments in every endeavor that can make or break your results.
As we enter NCAA March Madness, you’re about to see the importance of critical moments. Critical moments that take place in the team huddles. When do teams huddle? Primarily before the game, during timeouts and after the game. Too bad those same critical moments escape so many business leaders on a day-to-day basis.
The timeout huddle serves multiple purposes: to stop negative momentum, shift the collective mood, refocus individuals and calibrate strategy. That brief pause can mean the difference between winning and losing in close games.
The most important minutes of the day that can set your team up for the thrill of victory instead of the agony of defeat are the first five minutes and the last five. So call timeout and huddle up with them.
The value of the timeout goes far beyond athletics. Pilots take timeouts to review pre-flight checklists, and timeouts have also been proven to reduce errors in surgery. In 2012, hospitals began using timeout huddles for error reduction and checklists that prevent wrong site, wrong procedure and wrong patient surgeries. The technical term the medical community uses to describe these timeout huddles is the "Universal Protocol."
James Jacobi, sales manager of Medix, a workforce staffing organization, is well ahead of the curve and has been using daily timeout huddles with his team for the past 10 years.
A full timeout in college basketball is 75 seconds long, and as a former college coach I can tell you, you’d be amazed at what you can cover in a short amount of time. Jacobi can relate -- timeout huddles with his team of account executives and recruiters only last five minutes.
At 8 a.m. each morning his full team assembles, and inside that five-minute window they go over the work-flow board and set individual accountability goals and deliverables to be reached by 4 p.m. They then break the huddle and jump into action. No sitting down, no boring hour-long conference call or meeting, no tired old PowerPoint deck.
“The meetings are fun and the results have been game changing,” Jacobi says.
Before he conducts his five-minute full-team huddle, Jacobi schedules a 15-minute small-team huddle with groups assigned to specific clients. He asks them what their goals and plans are as well as their dominant purpose for the day. The key word being ask, not tell. By asking, he is empowering and enabling his employees to take ownership of the task and the corresponding result as well.
The secrets to success lie within our everyday habits. Is huddling difficult? According to Jacobi, no. They practically run themselves and his team enjoys them. The difficulty lies in committing to a course of action and not wavering from it because you think you’re “too busy” to huddle on a particular day.
Jacobi says he believes that instituting daily huddles 10 years ago has been culture changing for the company. Much like the ebb and flow of a basketball game, the work day in the staffing industry is a dynamic, ever-changing environment. With the frequent calibrating that is required to match candidates with clients, they found very quickly that they really can’t afford not to huddle daily. It keeps the communication level high between team members.
It is so effective that Jacobi has instituted planned daily checkpoints (also only five minutes) with each of his Medix employees. This enables them to bring questions or concerns to him at a specific scheduled time in the middle of the work day and prevents interruptions.
How important is finishing strong? Just watch how many games go down to the wire in March Madness. And you’ll see that the team with momentum down the stretch usually wins. Jacobi realizes the value of finishing strong and ending the work day with positive momentum. This is why his team also huddles up for five minutes at the end of the work day. They share success stories and celebrate victories as well as perform a review of what could have been done better.
Jacobi revealed that an additional benefit is the huddles are a good forum for peer-to-peer learning. They can coach each other and learn how to be better, more supportive teammates in the process. Speaking from experience as a coach I can tell you that peer-to-peer coaching is way more powerful than leader to subordinate. The more the coach has to lead, the less success the team will enjoy. The more the team members feel empowered to lead, the more success they will enjoy.
The two most important times of a game are what I call the bookends. They are the first five minutes and last five minutes of the game. It’s where momentum plays a critical role and feeds your confidence. In the sport of business, the two most important times are the first and last five minutes of the day. Are you starting and finishing each day strong?
In the short term, momentum is gained by your people feeling the positive energy in the huddle and the comradery on the team. In the long term, momentum is sustained when individual employees see first hand in the daily huddle just how their roles and responsibilities connect to the big-picture vision of the company.
Don’t underestimate the power of a five-minute huddle. It's investing time, not spending or wasting it. When you invest, you get a return.
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