30 January 2009

Our client was a global confectionary company which, at the time, was relatively new on the South African market. They had developed a number of new products and a range of complementary products.

Because of this, their market share increased from 7 to 14%.

For the following year, the American head office called for sales to increase to just over 1.3 million boxes, from the previous 1 million. The South African national sales manager estimated that they could sell approximately 1.5 million boxes.

To achieve these targets, the sales team needed to change their mindset and become more innovative.

To succeed, the sales team needed to become a ‘team of winners’

The sales manager summed up the competencies the team needed to develop:

T – Team spirit
E – Encouragement of others
A – Achievement
M – Magical thinking with heroic action

O – Opportunity
F – Fear of failure. Let it stay with the opposition

W – Win!
I – Integrate our confectionary into South Africa
N – New initiatives, major driver of success
N – Never give up!
E – Energy. Eat, drink and breathe
R – Remember, everything in life can be changed as long as you want!
S – Success. Success has three faces: Innovation, action, and communication.

We planned an externally-facilitated, three-day team development workshop for the sales team to provide an opportunity to create the platform on which to build the team of winners.

How the dream team made the sales team into a ‘team of winners’

We decided that a once-off event would not adequately resolve the challenges facing the sales team: The process would need to be ongoing. Initially, we would need to assist them and after this the team themselves would need to drive the process.

This team-building intervention took place in 4 phases

Phase 1: Climate survey

Before the actual team-building event, we conducted a climate survey to get feedback on why the team felt that they couldn’t perform at an optimal level. We encouraged them to suggest opportunities for change within the team.

We analysed the information we gathered and presented it to the team leader before the event. This information included staff recommendations and provided a starting point for discussions within the team about how they were going to integrate and become more cohesive.

Phase 2: Team building and development workshop

Using syndicate and plenary discussions combined with carefully-selected experiential activities, the focus of the team-building event was on:

  • Building relationships: Getting to know and understand each other’s (and one’s own) strengths and preferences;
  • Reviewing the issues and concerns;
  • The way forward; and
  • Developing a positive team identity.

The groups discussed issues that arose from the climate audit and the team-building process. These were not easy discussions and participants were open and honest with each other and the process.

The experiential activities provided a strong element of fun. These helped people feel comfortable to discuss the challenges facing the team freely. Participants in the discussions provided:

  • Insights into the prevailing team dynamics; and
  • Assistance in identifying individual and collective strengths and weaknesses.

It turns out there was a perceptions gap between management and the rest of the team

A gap between how management and the rest of the team perceived situations, and the reason why it existed, highlighted how ineffective communication and a lack of feedback lead to false assumptions with a negative impact on relationships and team spirit.

Both parties committed to using the agreed communication channels and to more open and honest feedback to avoid similar misunderstandings in the future.

Management also undertook to provide feedback and information, within an agreed timeframe, about specific topics raised.

The event concluded with the syndicates reflecting on what they learned during the workshop, using a ‘stop’, ‘start’, ‘continue’ analysis to identify and commit to actions designed to realise their dream of becoming a ‘team of winners’.

Phase 3: Post-event report

After the event, a report was prepared of:

  • A summary of the pre-event survey findings;
  • Process notes;
  • Agreed action points from the event; and
  • Observations and recommendations from the facilitators.

Phase 4: Follow-up climate survey

Six months after the event, the climate survey was repeated. Its findings were benchmarked against the findings of the original survey. This was done to measure the impact of the workshop and see how future initiatives could be carried out.

As you will see from the graph below, before the workshop (in May) the team was failing to achieve the targets which were set by head office. At the end of the year, they had not only achieved head office’s targets, they had exceeded the national sales manager’s higher goals.