What makes for a well-connected team? A group that loves each other and thinks exactly the same? Shackleton put together that team and we see how that turned out. Shipwrecked in ice and months to save everyone from an event that could have been completely avoided, had Shackleton been a leader that valued diversity a bit more…
My definition of a well-connected team is a diverse group that understands what each other actually does on a day-to-day basis at work to support the business and by default their teammates. With that understanding comes respect and a high level of trust in one another. Then, when there is pushback or concern, the rest of the team pauses and listens.
Well-connected also refers to our connection with our consumers or customers. Teams that are thoughtfully connected with their consumer’s love and pain points around the company’s offerings can improve business results more quickly and efficiently. These teams continually search out ways to have first-person interactions and internalize what the consumer actually needs or wants.
And finally, team members on a well-connected team feel real self-worth for their individual roles on the team which in turn leads to commitment to the team. They understand how they uniquely contribute and therefore, realize showing up every day to give their very best is worth it.
The benefit to the team? The benefit to the company? Well-connected teams can move mountains to achieve business objectives. More profits. Shorter time to market. More 5star reviews. More member sign-ups. New business streams. The results I have witnessed throughout the years are endless. And they often start with well-connected team meetings.
So, what is a well-connected team meeting? Regardless, if this is a weekly status meeting or annual planning two-day event, the agenda has the same components:
- Internal framework of issue/opportunity
- External Customer/Consumer insights around issue/opportunity
- Reframing issues holistically from both internal and external considerations
- Solution Avalanche – all ideas on the table
- 3-5 team selected actions for immediate follow-up with the team owner assigned to each for progress accountability
- Follow up check-in date confirmed
Here are three examples of team meetings where we left well-connected and proud of the results that followed:
Jewelry Making Party!
We hosted a jewelry-making party in our NYC offices with roughly 10 highly engaged customers on our 3D Making platform. Our developers created an amazing app for anyone to customize a piece of jewelry and 3d print it without any 3d CAD design knowledge. However, there was concern on the broader team that the user interface was not intuitive for the general public. The developers on the team disagreed.
The Jewelry Making Party was born! The “team” included marketing, sales, developers, UX designers, and even our finance manager who wanted to come. Here is an outline of our agenda:
Set up and team huddle on what we wanted to learn from consumers
5:00pm – 6PM
Live consumer testing – VIP customers arrived and were paired with a developer and one other team member to share their experience and take notes. Consumers completed making their jewelry pieces and were eager to receive their finished pieces by mail in a few weeks.
Happy Hour debrief commenced. Internal team to discuss what we learned and where we wanted to make updates over drinks and snacks. White boarded notes and assigned next steps before the end of happy hour. Fun consumer stories were shared throughout as well!
- Two developers were making changes to the code in real-time while working with their customers.
- The issues marketing and sales had with the ease of use were not hurdles with consumers at all!
- Learned that two “bells & whistles” to the jewelry-making process were not necessary so cut them out, which gave more time to fix issues that were important.
- Updated directions in the app to improve clarity what the jewelry maker could and could NOT do.
- Jewelry app was updated and launched on time!
- Sales and marketing had complete confidence in the product and thus invested more aggressively than planned before the “Jewelry-making party”
- Consumer engagement and adoption at launch exceeded original forecasted goals. (We might have sandbagged the numbers, I can’t remember now 😉
Quarterly Meet-Up for Remote Marketing Team
When I was working in the Car Wash industry, the marketing team was spread out all over the U.S.. So quarterly we would get together in person to go deep on a single topic that was paining all of us. This particular meeting, we were focusing on Car Wash Memberships and how to impact growth. Each regional manager had different programs and perspectives. In addition to the marketing team, which included field marketing managers, customer care, digital performance marketing and strategic partnerships manager, we invited the local field operations folks to join us. There was a lack of trust between marketing and field operations at this time that we wanted to break down if possible. Plus, we had the pleasure of a new HR manager joining us to learn the business from the front lines!
8:30am Breakfast and discussion on the value of Car Wash Memberships and
Consumer Immersion Briefing
9:45 -12noon Wash Cars with Customers at 5 different car wash locations
12noon Best Fried Chicken Lunch in Memphis, TN
1:00pm Debrief what crazy things customers do to get their cars cleaned at car washes
2:30pm Build the Car Wash Membership of the Future
Well, let’s just say I got a ton of sideway glances when I briefed the team that we were going to get in customer cars and ride through the car wash tunnel together to learn about car washing. None of the team had ever participated in a direct consumer interaction like this before. Of course, they had spoken to a customer as they drove up or in emails or phone calls to customer care. BUT drive through the tunnel together in their car??? Had I lost my ever-loving mind?
The team had the option to just chat with customers as they were vacuuming their car after going through the tunnel. And customers were asked if we could ride with them through the car wash to learn how we could serve them better. If they said no, not an issue. Just move on to the next customer.
- 90% of the team was late to lunch. They wanted to get “just one more ride in” with a customer.
- Laughter and great customer stories are still shared today! You just can’t make up what customers are willing to share if you are willing to listen.
- Field Marketing team members that thought car wash memberships were just for finance to love the P&L became believers in the value to customers that are obsessed with keeping their car clean. The VIP feeling of being a “Member” was a real value.
- Field operations saw the value of letting a club member go through the wash multiple times in a single visit if they wanted to. It really had no statistically significant impact to the overall operations financials and the “joy” of the privilege kept them coming back month after month.
- Field marketing managers saw how on-site signage could improve.
- Field Operations realized marketing folks are people too and could actually add value, not just spend $$$.
- New membership brochures were created, and more field marketing focus given to helping drive monthly sales.
- Memberships increased and cancelations declined. Customer Care had better insight how to save a member calling to cancel.
Brand Repositioning – Brand Ambassador Sleep Over
Rit Dye was 100 years old and internally referred to as a Laundry Aid to cover up stains customers couldn’t get out with traditional cleaning. However, there were so many other usages showing up on social media with Rit Dye! My team and I attended the annual crafting conference where we met 5 maker influencers that were in LOVE with Rit Dye. When it was clear that one lunch was not going to be enough to learn everything we needed to learn from these makers we decided to have a full Rit Dye making immersion party to learn just how far you could take Rit beyond a laundry aid!
The 5 influencers were flown to our headquarters, and we hosted a sleep over so we could make and dye until we were exhausted. No time constraints! And full disclosure, I hosted most of the meeting in my own kitchen because we needed somewhere to dye. Our corporate offices were not a “maker” mecca. Internal teammates in attendance were Sales, R&D, Plant manager, marketing, web agency creative, PR manager.
8-11am Pick up from airport
11:am Overview of all the projects the influencers wanted to complete
(they had sent ahead the materials they were going to need)
12 noon Lunch and Show N Tell their favorite Rit Dye projects
1:00 Dye 101 from the influencers – each sharing how they used Rit Dye.
(not a single one did it the same way or according to directions on the bottle)
5:30 Break and get ready for dinner
6:00 Dinner and social media sharing
(who they followed, what else folks were using Rit Dye for, competition)
8:30am Breakfast and show-n-tell finished and dried projects from day before.
Critique of Rit Dye – where there could have been better or different results.
10:00 Innovation ideas from Influencers
12 noon Lunch and goodbyes.
- Brand vision and mission overhaul – Rit was a maker tool for infinite possibilities with color, way MORE than a laundry aid.
- New website created where consumers could post their own Rit projects.
- Innovation funnel full of ideas for years to come
- Rit Studio was born – store within a store in Craft Chains expanding distribution significantly
- Product formula tweaks that significantly improve results and no negative profit impact
- 5 New Brand Ambassadors on speed dial with the extended team!
Three Keys to Success: Consumers, One Mind, Have Fun
While there are many more great team stories and results to share, I will leave you with this:
- First-hand connection with customers is critical to staying relevant and planning the future growth of your business. Customers tell it like they see and don’t sugar coat anything to get approval from you or your boss or the shareholders. Listen with an open mind to the multitude of diverse points they are sharing. No one needs to be “right”, we just need to be honest about the relationship between the customer and our products or services. Not wishful or indignant.
- Teams can move mountains fast and cost-effectively if they are of one mind. They must be clear about what the mission is and how each member has a valuable role to play in getting to the end result. Team meetings focused on solving a problem, valuing everyone’s input and really listening to one another have consistently delivered great results. Not always easy to get through the discussions at times but grinding through “why do you believe that” is worth it!
- Having fun together over a business issue unleashes creativity, and group creativity is unbelievably impactful to results no matter what business you are in. Not to mention we spend way too much time working to not enjoy what we do and who we do it with!
Happy next team meeting!