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Ask the Expert: Create a Culture of Focus to Optimize Results

Q: “The team is showing inconsistent results whether it’s service, financial performance or cleanliness. At the same time, the industry is becoming increasingly competitive. I believe in my team; how can I help it achieve consistent and better results?”

RickBraa_2x3A: Businesses run in cycles. Being busy creates focus and translates into performance. Why? Focus activates behavior. What occupies the mind moves the feet. Employees have no choice but to focus on the important job of serving the guest and working as a team, the basis of their jobs. It’s expected when things are busy that an employee must move at a rate faster than what is normally comfortable for most and perform at the highest level possible. As the business slows down, performance often drops off and becomes inconsistent. The difference is focus. To see consistent results, consider the following:

Understand that focused attention takes effort. Being present is taxing. Think of the last time you parallel parked or did something unusual while driving. The first thing you may reach for is the radio to turn it down. That’s because multi-tasking and focusing on more than one thing at a time is nearly impossible. If a behavior is automatic, like driving, rather than controlled, as with parallel parking, it is processed by utilizing different brain circuitry. A controlled response takes effort and focus until repetition moves from controlled to automatic behavior. Reinforce behaviors that move learning forward. If you can maintain focus on a goal or habit, more often than not, that goal will be achieved or that habit created.

Enthusiastically communicate why focus is important and make it personal. Clarity creates focus. People will do what is important if it’s personal to them. You can achieve consistent results by taking the time to ensure employees understand why something is done and what the motives are behind that action or behavior. If an employee doesn’t understand why something is important, results will be inconsistent. Bringing clarity to the “why” drives performance and consistency.

Get everyone into the “flow.” Everything and everyone seems to work seamlessly once in the “flow.” This is the time when everything is clicking. It’s the moment when a person executing a behavior is fully involved in the enjoyment of the process and has the feeling of energized focus. The job of management is to move the team into flow, starting with the moment each team member clocks in.

Provide ongoing, intense training. Building automatic competence takes time and repetition. What was once difficult can become easy and rote with time and training. That’s where training typically falls off. Employees receive initial training, then they’re considered “trained.” Rather, training should be ongoing and intense. Raise the bar daily and don’t accept the status quo. Everyone can get better particularly if they are already excellent. Build on strengths and ensure every person on staff is challenged to go to the next level regardless of current competence.

It is the tool that a lion tamer uses that makes it possible for him to walk into a cage with an animal several times his size that could rip him to shreds in seconds. The whip is for show; the chair is the tool. A lion will try to focus on all the legs of the chair rather than the lion tamer, and the split focus freezes the lion in confusion. The same thing happens with humans. When we try to focus on more than one thing, we can’t complete anything with precision or ease. Driving everyone into the flow and providing an intense training environment that builds automatic behaviors with plenty of understanding and support will bring the consistent results you’ve been craving.

For more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.

Author: MRA
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