5 Ways to Build a Team That Cares
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Today I was at the airport at 4 a.m. for a flight back home. Like most of my fellow travelers, I was sleep deprived and anxious to reach my destination. Air travel can be treacherous at more caffeinated hours of the day, let alone when navigating one's way through the airport before the coffee shops are even open.
It was quickly obvious that no one wanted to be at the airport that early -- not the passengers, the airline employees or security and maintenance. I witnessed employee after employee who seemed to have little regard for doing anything but the bare minimum. Case in point, I noticed one fellow traveler approach two separate airport personnel with a reasonable question: "How do I get to my gate?"
The question was particularly natural, because the tram which takes someone from one section of the airport to another was down for maintenance. The answer actually was rather tricky. Passengers had to take a series of turns down several corridors to then take a bus which would shuttle them across the airfields to the correct gate. I saw a couple of employees vaguely point the way in a manner that was almost dismissive, followed by the traveler walking away more confused. Finally, I saw one employee who cared say to an elderly traveler, "Follow me, I'll show you the way." I thought, "Wow, I wish that was more the norm, than the exception… I think it would help make the experience a little better for so many."
One of the best compliments that any organization can hear is that "Everyone in your company is so caring." A team that cares is a team that will rally behind each other and will also build tremendous customer loyalty. My airport experience did cause me to question, "Why is it that organizations seemingly have entire workforces of caring people, while others seem to possess only a few exceptions that do?"
Here are five ways to build a team that cares:
1. All of your leaders have to care.
At the airport, I also witnessed a security screener ask her supervisor a question, and to my surprise, he gave her the same type of short, curt, type of response that I had seen so many of the airport employees give passengers. While I normally like to give people the benefit of the doubt, this hurried behavior was not the result of too many passengers and not enough staff (at 4 a.m., I've rarely seen a major airport more empty or more employees standing around). If your leaders don't care, you can pretty much guarantee that your average team member won't either.
2. There's no, "This isn't my job."
The one example that I witnessed of an employee truly caring was the guy who escorted the elderly traveler to the right gate. The worker who did this was a construction worker who happened to be working on an airport project – not even an airline or airport employee. He clearly didn't have to do what he did as a part of his "job," but he simply did it because it was the right thing to do and he cared.
3. Seek team members who don't care about receiving credit.
It took that team member a few minutes to walk the passenger to their correct gate. This probably meant that it would take him a few more minutes to do his job. The reality is that except for that passenger, no one was going to know he even took the time to help. I've seen teams where people step up and go above and beyond when everyone is looking. The special ones, however, do so all the time without an audience.
4. Look for personal recruits.
A personal recruit is when someone on your team recommends a friend or acquaintance to interview for your organization. This can prove to be particularly valuable because if you have a healthy culture, your team members know the expectations new hires. Because of this, they are invested in the company's success and will only seek out personal recruits that are exceptional and also caring.
5. Have an very low tolerance for bad attitudes.
This last one might be the most important. Human errors, learning new systems, handling stress are all things that you will likely want to emphasize when coaching your team and will require some patience. However, a bad attitude should IMMEDIATELY be addressed with a team member, and it should not be allowed to exist for long. Quickly identify who the right people are, get them in the right positions and part ways with the sour grapes sooner than later. Adhere religiously to this approach and soon your team will be full of radiators, not drains.
There are countless articles and books on how to build a successful business. The philosophies that I've found with the most power are often the simplest. By finding and developing people who truly care, you win both lifetime employees and customers.