When someone asks “How are You Going?” and takes the time to listen to your response, you can’t help but feel valued and appreciated; even loved, and there’s no doubt that having people in our lives that take the time to provide this goes a long way in terms of helping us feeling satisfied and happy. But how have I used this principle to help executives I coach achieve better results in business?
To do this I’m going to discuss two examples where as a coach I’ve helped business leaders use this simple virtue to improve business performance in relation to specific goals. In the first example the goal was to improve OH&S targets, and in the second it was used to improve ‘business cash flow’.
The first one involves the results I helped achieve when I was acting in a HR consulting capacity for CSR Limited manufacturing plant in Victoria. When I was engaged, the site had over 120 personnel, plus contractors, operating in a continuous process and was manned 24×7. A major issue the site was having was that their safety record was unacceptable, with 10 lost time injuries annually, close to having one employee injured at work every month.
This statistic was obviously bad for staff morale and also translated into a high financial cost for the business, in the form of higher WorkCover premiums, as well as lost productivity. The injury rate was unacceptable and unsustainable and we needed to turn it around fast!
Our Safety Superintendent worked hard to understand the ‘root cause’ and of course to help the injured workers, albeit after the event, and a significant improvement was subsequently achieved through leadership action, however by far and away the most effective action we took occurred after the Safety Superintendent made a conscious commitment to take on a practice of walking the shop floor early morning and late afternoon to ask people, “How are you going?”.
This simple practice, performed regularly, lead to better communication from the shop floor with management, and the improved communication lead to findings that enabled the factory to achieve ‘zero harm’ to its people, a statistic that made the workforce proud, and also had the feeling of being cared for. From an operational perspective this lead to reduced costs (smaller WorkCover premiums) and it also fuelled increased productivity by virtue of less work days lost to injury, as well as improving morale on the shop floor.
“How are you?” is also a great sentiment/question for leaders with financial management responsibilities, and in this ‘how are you going’ example I’m going to talk about how I used this principle when I was engaged as a mentor to a new executive with business wide responsibilities that included financial management.
When we began working together I noticed that at monthly management meetings, bank balances were advised as an after event rather than a KPI. This method of reviewing the financial health of the organisation was inadequate and left the business exposed to costs for making up unexpected shortfalls through short term borrowings. The ‘how are you going’ question that I posed to the business leader, led to the executive formulating for the first time a detailed month by month cash flow forecast. This forecast was subsequently presented at monthly business reviews and greatly enhanced the way the business leaders approached the operation of the business.
This was a long established, family owned manufacturing business that had been very successful over an extended period. Their success gave the leadership team a sense of wellbeing that had been supported by strong bank balances, repeat orders from the auto industry and clients who appreciated the special capabilities of the business.
Of recent times the Australian manufacturing sector has been in a state of turmoil, and businesses with some or their entire client base from automotive manufacturing needed to be looking for diversification, in the face of the impending closure of car making in Australia.
The ordering of stock was controlled to ensure no adverse effects on cash, and the expediting of orders was similarly more focused. The executive monitored cash on a daily and weekly basis and asked the question, “How is our cash flow going?” regularly, which helped the leader grow and develop the organisation.
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