"Concentrate on the vital few, ignore the trivial many."
- Vilfredo Pareto
Dave, district manager for a major wholesale food distributor in Boise, Idaho, told Session 9 of the Leadership Development Lab:
"It was time, maybe past time for my district to have a brainstorming meeting. So, during our district sales meeting, I slated a time to discuss what they felt was the most important area of their job where I could be of additional help. We set up the guidelines for brainstorming:
- Quantity not quality
- Free Thinking
- Green light only!
- Everyone participates.
- Encourage humor
- Always use a flip chart
- Form a demanding question . . . "In what ways can we . . . "
My question was 'In what ways can I help you with the most challenging part of your job??' The first few minutes were open suggestions which resulted in a list of possible ways I could be more helpful to them. After we had generated a pretty good list of ideas about how I could better support my team, we went back to the list to come to a consensus on one specific area they felt I could be most helpful. The one item that got the most votes was "Work Withs" – the days I take with them once a month to ride along, meet existing clients, make service calls and new business development calls - was the hands down favorite. From there I wrote down everything that they said. There were a lot of great ideas discussed. I was excited
to see the energy everyone had. After the list was compiled I agreed to send an e-mail with everything that was listed and to make regular progress reports on what was happening with the implementation of their ideas. From that meeting we have set up a meeting with our AR department to go over issues and we have asked for specific guidelines to some confusing issues in other departments. Our sales associates are happy to see progress being made. So much so that I actually received a compliment on Saturday from one of my sales associates, saying that she appreciated the concern I had shown and the time I am taking to help them. That alone is worth everything I have done.
We are only just beginning and I plan to take some of the other subjects brought up in the beginning of the brainstorming session and expand on them in the future.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that brainstorming is a great way to get everyone on the same page.
Brainstorming not only helps focus my team, it is a great way to gain the focus I need to insure that I am concentrating on the vital few.
The action I call you to take is to brainstorm with your associates; ask them what they need to be successful. You might be surprised with what you learn.
The benefit you will gain is a stronger team atmosphere where people feel comfortable about sharing their ideas. You will gain greater focus and performance will improve."