Saturday, June 23, 2007

Week 39 - Can Behavior Be Systematized

Previously I have mentioned systems and employees but really only focused on the policies and procedures that employees are expected to adhere to. What about how employees treat each other or how they interact with the owner of the business - is it possible to systematize that type of behavior so that there are fewer disagreements within your business? The process begins long before these people are your employees.

It is not easy to change the personality of an unfriendly and unmotivated person. Seek out those people who are outgoing and seem willing to learn and ask for examples of how they have used common sense to achieve goals in previous workplaces. The technical aspect of your work may be quite easy to teach so you should focus on hiring people you believe will bring passion to your business.

To some it might sound far fetched, but one such business that has achieved “happiness” is Paddy Lund Dentistry, owned by Brisbane, Australia based dentist Paddy Lund. You see Paddy Lund’s dentistry practice operates under the “The Courtesy System”. Implementing The Courtesy System in your business could mean an end to disagreements and eventually to a much stronger feeling of collective worth.

Paddy Lund’s firm belief is that you spend so much of your time at work you should make an effort to enjoy that time. The time you spend at work is simply living your life. Paddy gave up trying to buy happiness through acquiring cars and property outside of work hours and rather realized that if he was ever to truly be happy, he had to make changes in his workplace.

Paddy begun this transformation by insisting that all staff use “please” and “thank you” every time they interacted. On top of that he demanded an end to office gossip. Initially as you might expect, the employees and Paddy himself felt that the words sounded “put on”. Interestingly the clients did not, they were often commenting how refreshing it was that employees were treating each other with such respect.

On top of employees being courteous to each other Paddy put in place daily meetings to tackle sources of unhappiness. By getting employees to speak candidly if things had upset them, Paddy could identify causes and put in place new rules to ensure the offending behavior was not repeated. What Paddy has learned is that he is able to work up to 50% less, his staff are happy all of the time and the people attracted to the practice (by referral only!) also possess positive attitudes. In addition, Paddy’s employees are with him for the long haul and on top of all of this, he makes more money than he ever did when he was unhappy! The reduced workload and extra money can be attributed to the implementation of systems (for both the business and how staff interact) which has lead to more profitable and happy customers. One example is that appointment cancellations plummeted leading to less scheduling problems (revenue) and a more organized environment (calm, happy employees).

Think about your workplace for a moment. Perhaps there tensions in the air between staff that can affect the way your customers perceive your business. Would you like to serve only your ideal customers and look forward to going to work each and every day?

What can your business learn from Paddy Lund Dentistry?

  1. Embark on a fact finding mission to establish the “happiness issues” in your business – start with an employee survey or group discussion
  2. Put systems in place initially to force greater co-operation and sensitivity
  3. Identify roadblocks to your continued success by involving all employees in open discussion
  4. Adjust the systems as required to maintain your positive momentum
  5. Never stop looking for improvements all the while ensuring you are treating your fellow employees with dignity and respect. Again this might sound like hard work and yes it will take time, but the effort required will taper off.
The rest you can learn from Paddy himself; buy his book here.

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