Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chatty team members - a question from YOU

\Charlotte writes…I have a question. I am a leader of a team of 23. What suggestions do you have to help with staying on task when you have a team member who just loves to chat? Honestly, I shy away from calling her because she takes up so much of my time, even when I do say, “Well, I need to go so that I can_______________” - it still takes forever to get off the darn phone! And if she does drop by - forget it -hard to get her out of the house and on her way. It IS good to touch base and get to know team members better and I want to support her, BUT my time is so limited as it is, I do avoid connecting with her because of this. HELP!

Dear Charlotte,
Your challenge is one that is common to those of us in direct sales. Many who are attracted to this type of work have that “cheerleader” personality type. Many join this business as a social outlet and the “business” part of it is a secondary component and so the result is the situation you are dealing with. We LOVE these team members, but it is important to establish boundaries early on so that as your team grows you are able to keep yourself organized and balanced.
So…because at TSF we have `been there and done that' we have a few practical suggestions.
Schedule weekly phone appointments with her. Set parameters for the appointments:

· The appointment is 15 minutes in length

· She needs to come prepared with a list of questions and challenges she is having

· She needs to schedule at a time when distractions at her house are minimal

· She (and you) will keep a notebook as a log of your appointments.

· YOU keep a kitchen timer on your desk so that you can be true to your commitment of a 15 minute appointment.

The agenda for the phone call is as follows:

· Review how her previous business week went, what worked and what needs to be changed.

· Deal with the challenges she had and brainstorm solutions.

· Give her an assignment for the current week (example, book two more parties for April)
· Schedule a time for the call the following week.

Don't be surprised if the first week's appointment ends up with her chatting away and using up the time. That's where the kitchen timer comes in. The timer will go off (and since it is by the phone), she will hear it. You MUST cut the conversation off - let her know that you have another appointment coming up right after hers and so next week we will have to make sure to get right down to business. (This will train her very quickly that she needs to `get down to business' on your calls.)

Now, this doesn't mean that you don't take her calls at other times during the week - but only do so if you have time and ask that if she has questions that she uses email whenever possible.
Set and keep office hours and be sure your team knows what those are. For example, when my children were small, my office hours were from 1-3pm during nap time. Remember, office hours are only effective if you keep them!

Keeping control on “drop in visits” is most important, especially as your team grows. I have a pick up basket on my front porch. I use it for team members and customers alike. Whether they need to drop off a check, purchase business supplies, pick up a catalog or inventory - this basket is in constant use. It is a wonderful tool. When I get a call that someone needs something, I just let them know it will be out in the basket for them to pick up at their convenience so that we don't have to coordinate our schedules. Even if I am home when they come by - I don't go to the door. Problem solved.

Remember, a key to success in this business is operating your business from the start like the large organization that you are working towards it becoming. That means setting parameters and putting solid business practices in place early on so that you can effectively balance your family and your business life and obligations.
Hope that helps!

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