Contractormag 8428 Superchicken

Tech’s aren’t chickens, and neither are plumbers!

May 19, 2017
Would you say that your technicians and plumbers feel that the way to get ahead is to compete? What if instead of competing, they were taught to collaborate? Working alongside smart, hardworking, and creative people is its own reward; I can assure you. 

This morning on my commute in I listened to a TED Talk podcast about the subject of the “Pecking Order” in relation to “super” chickens. Now, don’t take me wrong or misinterpret my sincere respect for our industry and our technicians and plumbers … they are undoubtedly far superior to chickens. However, I couldn’t help but associate our desire to hire, train and cultivate “superstar” technicians and plumbers in the same way that farmers want superior chickens. Believing they’ll both always have increased productivity and increased profits. Isn’t that what we’ve been trying to do? We want to hire the best and brightest so, they’ll sell more and fix repairs faster right?

Image: iStock/ThinkStock.

So, what’s so interesting about chickens? Well, we’re not just talking about your average egg laying chickens here … we’re talking about super chickens! You can’t compare the two. When put in a group of average chickens, the super chickens caused the average group to be much more productive.

The average chickens became better.  But, when a group of these super chickens were put together, instead of productivity, they pecked each other to death. The individual motivation to achieve success suppressed the productivity of the group.

In our own careers, wouldn’t an honest superstar agree that either in the past, or present, we’ve pecked others in order to succeed? And in a competitive group of like-minded success-driven individuals, the pecking, if continued amongst technicians could potentially leave a large impact on our businesses (not always for the good).

Would you say that your technicians and plumbers feel that the way to get ahead is to compete? What if instead of competing, they were taught to collaborate? Working alongside smart, hardworking, and creative people is its own reward; I can assure you.

In an article titled, “One Bad Apple Spoils the Company,” the magazine Strategy + Business states that, “Avoiding or weeding out toxic employees can be much more valuable to firms than hiring or cultivating overachievers.” 

Now, I’m not saying that healthy competition is toxic, and that techs who are driven based on competition do not promote cohesion amongst the crew. We all need goals. We need a way to measure our success. Your technicians and plumbers need that too. But your team as a whole will profit more with cohesion than without. The only way we succeed is if they succeed.

Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together then success takes care of itself.” No matter the sport or industry … the successful team is never a team of one.” 

So what does the super chicken model show us?

If the foundation of our staff’s interaction is lined with competition and that “need to succeed at the expense of my coworker” attitude, we will always have breakdown in one of our great assets — our techs and plumbers.

Success is not achieved by picking our superstar technicians and plumbers and giving them all the power. It lies in acknowledging the healthy influencers amongst our team, harnessing their strengths, and sharing those strengths with the team, young and old, smart and well you know, learning.  If the only way the most successful people on our team can be productive is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, we are in desperate need of a better way to work.

So, how do we implement cohesion while promoting healthy competition to keep technicians and plumbers wanting to do their personal best? What is it that actually makes some organizations successful at this? MIT tested this theory and found the following after giving hundreds of problems to a certain amount of groups to solve:

  • The most successful groups were not collectively smarter.
  • The highest achievers had the following characteristics:
    • High degree of social sensitivity to each other/empathy
    • Gave equal time to each other (no one was only a Chief or Indian, they shared)
    • More women – more social connectedness

Now I’m not saying to go out and only hire really sensitive female techs to implement success.  But what I am saying is that in order to replace the so-called pecking order with the right order, you need to do the following:

  • Invest time in getting to know each other to achieve real momentum. 
  • Invest in your superstar technicians and plumbers with the expectation that they’ll invest in their colleagues.
  • Start from the top acknowledging each technician and plumber for what they bring to the table. 

Why do all this extra work?

  • Superstar techs and plumbers are goldmines, with ideas to help grow our teams.
  • Having cohesion amongst our techs is the mortar between the bricks.
  • Relationship and respect brings about resilience in times of stress.

Time is as valuable as our strongest technician and plumber, I know. So, maybe your weekly calendar doesn’t allow for a team powwow at the beginning of each day. We know most technicians are out before the rooster crows but, cohesive teams that are productive compound with time. And, that means if you make the time to promote health in the ranks you will keep your technicians longer and have increased productivity, which always means, at the end of every business day, increased profitability. 

Danielle Putnam is the president of The New Flat Rate and helped pioneer the company’s first of many products, the world’s first and only in-home menu selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical and HVAC contractors. Today Danielle oversees the daily operations of The New Flat Rate and is always excited to be a part of such a progressive company that allows her to be an innovative force for our industry’s growth.

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