Invert the Triangle to Improve Frontline Productivity

Do you work for your team, or does your team work for you? 

I was in a conference room with the EVP of a $4B US company recently, with a massive wooden board room table encircled by 30 chairs. The EVP sat at the head of the table, and I was at the other end near a projector and my PowerPoint presentation. 

The company was having a difficult time motivating and engaging with their frontline workers to improve productivity, and it was clearly exasperating the leadership team.

Early in my presentation I confidently proclaimed, “It’s incredibly important to invert the triangle. Traditionally, an organization looks like a triangle, with the CEO on top. As leaders we must switch our mindset to that of working for our people, and not the other way around. We must view ourselves as existing at the bottom of an inverted triangle, with our frontline workers at the top. We must exist to remove the barriers that stand in the way of their daily success.”

I was about to move on to my next slide when the COO abruptly stopped me and said, “Wait. Hold on a second, Joel.”

“Uh oh…that must not have landed right,” I thought to myself, bracing for a negative response.

The COO continued, “This table is surrounded by executives in every department of our business, and not a single one of us has a job if the thousands of frontline associates aren’t doing their jobs every day. Our associates are our company. They have the most difficult job in the organization. And we exist to serve them, and everyone around this table believes that.” 

He looked each executive at the table in the eye, and repeatedly sternly, “Everyone believes that.”

I quite literally shed a tear in that moment, caught up in the moment, sitting quietly observing this exchange. THIS was leadership. THIS was the sort of executive team who “gets it”. 

Effectively engaging our frontline employees involves, at the core, viewing ourselves as servant-leaders who exist to remove the obstacles that stand in their way, searching for ways to make their jobs easier, more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and more rewarding.

Let’s commit to inverting the triangle. 

Let’s commit to working for our people, for our teams all over the country and the world. 

Frontline employees are burned out, tired, lonely, and their jobs feel thankless and meaningless all too often. But they can feel noticed, they can feel important, they can experience purpose each day, and they can deliver results that will absolutely astound us if we just inverted the triangle and became servant leaders.

Hubert Joly, former CEO and Chairman of Best Buy during its historic turnaround, perhaps said it best. In his book, The Heart of Business, Joly writes, “When each individual within the company is fired up and when everyone [is] working together, [they can achieve] more than they ever thought possible…irrationally good performance.”

Servant leadership requires a consistent touchpoint with our frontlines, preferably a daily basis. We need a pulse on our organizations. As it stands, the team huddle or team briefing is the most consistent activity across any distributed organization, and yet it is one of the inconsistently executed activities. This reality presents a problem, as the team huddle is the catalyst to operationalizing our organizational mission and objectives, and yet its inconsistency handicaps and constrains us from the growth and results that we could gain. 

If you haven’t reached out and gotten a demo of Unisyn before, take a moment to contact us and learn how Unisyn helps put your best team everywhere by enabling world-class huddles to invert the triangle and unlock irrationally good performance from our teams.