Posted on January 31, 2011

Things I've Learned...(and am still learning)

By Bob Coughlin, CEO Paycor

Quick Tip: Unlocking the power of your associates and customers

Do you ever leave a meeting feeling like ideas were thrown out, everybody talked, but nothing got accomplished or assigned?

Back about eight years ago, Paycor had 125 associates (today we have 550). Like many, I attended some seminars on process improvement, partly because I recognized that we were having too many meetings with too little outcome. It occurred to me that we really needed to unlock the potential of our people with more structured exercises. We created the position of Chief Quality Officer, dedicated to constantly integrating process improvement techniques into our planning and problem solving. Today, when I have something to work on that requires teams and buy in, I consult with our CQO as to the tools we should enlist. It sounds like something for big companies, but I think the concepts apply to small teams as well as large.

I believe that the answers to our problems and our opportunities lie in unlocking the ideas of our associates and our clients, but we need ways to do that effectively. Some of the techniques we use include Language Processing (LP), Voice of the Customer, 7 step problem solving, and many others. The LP incorporates a weakness-based statement that starts with: What prevents us from…. The participants on a team write down ideas, group them, vote, draw pictures, priorities, and come up with action plans. I learned that everything goes better when the ideas are developed and there is buy in from the team, rather than the old “Bob says…” I made a rule that “Bob said” was no longer allowed as the reason for doing things (well…most times). Figuring out ways to involve people in initiatives is a key to being a great manager and leader, whether formally or informally.