Get rhythm into your business with these pointers and tips! 

The Context

A few months back I was speaking to a client, a seriously experienced and successful leader, about the challenging culture of a retail food services team he supported.

“Even though the team work in a small shop environment, they don’t really communicate or rally around each other. Sales targets are often missed. Customers have long waits and are cranky. People work in isolation and while there are decent ‘friendly’ relationships, people aren’t focused on talking about the things that really matter. I am trying to fix the culture, but there seems to be an element that is missing”. 

The element that is missing with this team (and a lot of other teams struggling with culture) is rhythm.

And before you ask, this is not the rhythm that comes from salsa dancing or the magic that cures the blues of Johnny Cash.

What is Rhythm?

Rhythm is the energy, flow and cadence of the business or team which helps to define how people work and interact together. It’s the heartbeat that the business runs to that gives everyone a clear sense of what is supposed to happen, how (and how often), the urgency, and what they are expected to contribute.

It’s things like the morning huddles, the common agenda item in team meetings across a whole business, the way an individual can create a call to action within their team and even the approach used to focus the efforts of a group on a specific (or urgent) priority.

The rhythm of a business is deeply interconnected with the culture, and it’s a big part of creating the unique feeling of working within that specific context. Like culture, rhythm will almost certainly exist within a business, even without conscious design and implementation.

A quick challenge

Take 3 minutes to think about the rhythms in your business or team. I am confident you will have thought of at least 10 practices that are a big part of your rhythm, with many of these being ‘informal’.

Given rhythm is so critical to way businesses, teams and people operate together, there is a great upside to Leaders working with their teams to get this right. So how can you do this really well?

So how can you do this really well?

A few pointers;

(1) Your rhythm needs to be aligned to your business and team context. They are not a one-size-fits-all or nor can they be bought off the shelf.

An example. Starting a daily 10 minute ‘sprint’ meeting to talk through the day’s top priorities would not be the best approach for a team of researchers where outputs are produced over months (not hours).

(2) Think about your key priorities or challenges, and then think about how clear rhythms within your team could help you and the team perform, collaborate, share or problem solve more effectively against the priorities.

A great example – a team where each individual employee is located in different areas and work completely alone.  To keep the team feeling connected and supported, if an employee exceeds their daily sales target, they send a celebratory (and often proud) text around to the rest of the team. The outcome? Lots of positive messages back from the team (making the employee feel great and connected), and a spark of competition as each team member tries harder so they too can meet their targets and not be left behind.

(3) The rhythm needs to be owned by everyone in the business or team.

While they may come to life as the ‘bosses idea’, it is important that the team is empowered to own, flex and use these rhythms to get great work done. You know your rhythm is a great success when it becomes ‘the way WE do things in our team’. Your role is a leader is to initially make sure the rhythm is relevant, keep it consistent and provide positive reinforce until it is woven into the DNA of the team.

(4) When designing business rhythms, seek to create a shared vision and consistency without being rigid and ignoring team nuances.

A great example. A business where every single team meeting starts with a discussion about improving safety. The great thing is this approach allows for differences to exist in the discussions across teams (i.e. what the manufacturing site speaks about, is very different to what the marketing team does), but still ensures everyone is truly and authentically focused on safety, in a way that is real and meaningful.

(5) Encourage your team to be aware of their own individual rhythms. Things like the times of the day they work best, the times of the year they need a break, and how they build energy across the day. By aligning individual, team and ultimately business wide rhythms, everyone will be in sync to do great work together.

So, let’s go back to the retail team.

We did some work with the Leader and team to establish a really simple rhythm to their work.  The team now huddled together at three points during the day to check in on sales targets and customer feedback. These meetings (done on the retail floor, for no more than 3 minutes), share where the team is at and what needs to happen to get ‘across the line’ for the day. Things like upselling, and purchase add-ons have become commonplace.

Team members are working together to resolve issues and customers are much happier. Sales targets are being met more consistently. As a result, the team is having a lot more fun.

There is still some work for this team to do to sustainably embed this rhythm into their long-term operations, but everyone is on-board to do this. I would call this a pretty solid success story.

So, with all this in mind, maybe now is a great time for you to focus on getting rhythm into your business or team….