[I wrote this post for financial advisors but it applies to other industries as well.]
What happens when your team members diverge from your accepted processes and go rogue?
It can start anywhere at any time:
One day you discover that a client doesn’t understand the fees he’s paying and has been fuming (silently) for a year. Turns out your client was reading his statement incorrectly. How did that happen? Some on your team haven’t been following the process you put in place long ago to review the first statement with each new client.
Your client review meetings have gotten off track lately. Remember how you used to follow a very specific process in those meetings so clients had a thorough understanding of how their assets are invested? But lately you’ve been getting looks from clients reminiscent of the title of that old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?”
As a leader, you have some choices to make when things like this start to happen. You might decide to reprimand team members for going outside accepted norms and order them back into line. Taking a tough, direct approach might be enough to correct rogue behavior.
But what if there’s something more amiss?
If you have a historically process-driven organization and team members start to deviate from those processes, does it tell a bigger story? I think it probably does. The story line may well be that the team has lost sight of the connection between your carefully crafted processes and two major expressions of those processes: your brand and your culture.
Your brand is the expression of your processes to the outside world. It is the promise you make your customers based on how you run your business.
Your culture is the DNA that describes how you live your processes.
The processes themselves are the bedrock upon which your brand and your culture reside.
If your people are changing processes without debate or agreement from the team as a whole, it’s a sign that team members (one or all) do not understand the relationship between your processes and your brand promise. Rather than calling out the bad behavior and shaming or scolding people into compliance (which will probably be effective only in the short-term), consider taking the opportunity to reexamine the team’s understanding of your brand.
Pull the team together and ask them:
What makes us unique in the marketplace?
What is our brand?
What do our customers expect from our brand promise?
What happens if we don’t live up to the expectations we have created?
How did our culture get to a point where we aren’t following the building blocks (i.e. processes) upon which our brand is based?
What will happen if we don’t address this?
How should we address it and monitor it going forward?
All teams get off track. The mark of a truly great brand, and an organization that lives its brand promise through a great culture, is the organization’s ability to right itself when it stumbles and move forward even better than before.