Ahoy! For those who aren’t aware (including me up until yesterday), September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I’m not aware of the significance or meaning but it sounds like fun so I plan to paaaaartake.
I’ve never met a pirate, nor do I plan to but I thought I was one when I was little so I’m basically an expert on the subject. Pirates, just like businesses, rely on their team of shipmates to navigate the rough seas and perform the myriad of tasks needed to reach a destination. The Captain plans the ship’s voyage but it’s the shipmates who work together to get there.
Ensuring each buccaneer is clear on what they are supposed to do, and that all teams are working together towards a common goal, is key. You can’t have everyone focused on the mainsail while the other sails are thrashing. In the pirate world – any under-performing member of the crew can easily be made to walk the plank because there is a port full of willing bodies ready to hop aboard the ship. But in the business world, finding and keeping good talent is vital. The challenge for companies today is organizing teams effectively so each person’s strengths can be used where and when they are needed to benefit themselves as well as the organization. This is much easier said than done and the lack of organizational alignment can cost businesses a lot of loot. I couldn’t find any productivity statistics on pirates, but here are some other numbers that are pretty eye-opening:
- it is estimated that only 59% of employee work time is productive due to lack of management and clear objectives i
- at a minimum, turnover costs an average of 25% of an employee’s salary – and this figure can be upwards of 400% of a senior executive’s salary ii
- the average organization is forfeiting over $1 million per year in untapped potential
So how can businesses run a tighter ship?
Define each job and keep redefining it: Each employee should be clear on what their role is and how it is tied to company success. Each should know what skills they are expected to display and what skills they should be improving on in order to perform their job properly. In the pirate movies I’ve seen, when a storm hits it seems as though every shipmate runs to their post and knows exactly what they have to do. This is what businesses should be aiming to achieve, not only through dicey weather but each and every day. More importantly, this role description should be dynamic. Just like the tides, roles are in constant motion and ever-evolving. If you stick employees in a box and tell them to stay there, you are likely missing out on some valuable skills and potential that could be used elsewhere.
Breakdown larger company objectives into team goals: Imagine a Captain yelling, “Get me to the Island!” How does the ship then get there? Well, one team plans the course, another ensures they have enough supplies to get there, I imagine yet another is responsible for polishing the wooden legs and feeding the parrots, and perhaps another fixes the boat so it doesn’t sink on the way. Broken down this way, you can see that “Get me to the Island” is the overall goal, however each team should have its own specific objectives. I don’t have to point out the obvious, but the same is true for businesses. Saying ‘”we need to achieve X amount of dollars in revenue,” or “we must become the leader in our industry,” simply cannot be digested into meaningful action for employees. They need leaders to translate those goals into a set of specific team objectives that are to be achieved in order for the main vessel to stay afloat.
Adjust course mid-way: If the path to success were straight and narrow, this world would be a much different place. Just as Captains must adjust their course to avoid storms or re-dock for supplies, businesses cannot set their ships on cruise control and then be shocked when they miss their target. Even though most managers have a heavy workload of their own, if they neglect to monitor and adjust the actions and performance of their reports, the ship will steer off-course quickly. Employees need timely feedback and coaching from their leaders in order to keep their sea legs. You savvy?
Luckily organizations in this century have some help which allows them to align their people and track the motherload of milestones that are being met. Using technology to track goals, identify potential, monitor performance and provide almost instant feedback & acknowledgement is possible. It take a little planning to get started but once you set sail, it’s clear skies ahead.
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