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Guest Column: Your Wine Is Great, Now What About Your Team?

Author: Dale Biron
October, 2015 Issue

If we apply the same consistency, care and rigor that we use with our technical challenges to our people and team challenges, we can seriously increase performance.

 
Imagine asking a seasoned, successful winemaker how he or she will choose the harvest time for their prized estate vineyard, only to hear, “Well, I’m not really sure!”
 
Of course you wouldn’t hear such an answer. The fact is, the harvest date (down to the hour) is carefully chosen based on a rigorous set of measures, routines and other considerations. It’s part passion and wisdom, part history and experience, part data and chemistry. It’s one of the most critical decisions a winemaker makes.
 
There are other crucial winemaking elements as well, like maceration time, fermentation temperatures or whether to use punchdowns or pumpovers, oak or steel tanks and cork or screw caps. The truth is, everywhere you look in a winery, there are precise processes followed that inform each stage and decision along the path to great wine.
 
But then comes the people side of the business, where our assumptions and methods can sometimes diverge. Areas like decision making, running meetings, creating new ideas, giving feedback and acknowledgement, handling conflict and committing to change are where planning, rigor and process are, at times, abandoned. Does it mean there aren’t amazingly talented winery leaders who manage people and teams with great skill? Of course not. It’s simply that winery leaders (just like leaders in many other kinds of businesses) have often inherited the common belief that people and team issues are unpredictable for repeatable routines and tools. And, of course, in some situations, that’s true.  
 
However, I’ve seen firsthand that, if we apply the same consistency, care and rigor that we use with our technical challenges to our people and team challenges, we can seriously increase performance. Imagine what your team could achieve if it were able to unleash even a little more untapped potential by consistently applying powerful tools. I’m talking about simple, observable tools for making better, faster decisions. Or tools for increasing innovation and creativity, building greater motivation or knowing if a commitment is actually going to be kept. And simple, observable tools for making meetings and brainstorming sessions shorter and more productive. These best in class tools exist and can be adapted to make people and team issues more predictably successful. Does this mean we try and turn our people into machines? Just the opposite: We consistently treat people and teams in ways that that have proven to most often yield the best, most creative results.
 
One common practice that can often reduce productivity and hurt team morale is not including people in decisions that will substantially affect them. This can easily happen when leaders get busy and haven’t defined a clear decision making process. Or when leaders feel that decisions must be either totally top down or totally collaborative (meaning 100 percent consensus). Often, the key is simply letting people know that the leader will be making the particular decision, but only after hearing the ideas and input of the stakeholders. This lets the leader have decision control when appropriate, while at the same time harvesting and including the best ideas from key stakeholders. This one simple tool will simultaneously improve the quality of decisions, boost team morale and increase critically needed buy-in.
 
Another example? Meetings can sometimes go forever with little to no clear results. Here again, there’s a simple and observable tool that ensures more engagement, productivity and a systematic roadmap and structure for reaching goals and tracking commitments. It’s called the FLOW tool, and it can radically improve team results.
 
1. What is the desired Future state?
 
2. What is the current Lay of the land?
 
3. What Options should be considered for getting from where you are to where you want to be?
 
4. What specific commitments to action Will each team member make (who, what, when and where)? These are just two examples of what the right people and leadership tools can accomplish.
 

The simple truth

Of course, great wine depends upon Earth’s bounty plus smart, repeatable, observable processes and tools applied with wisdom, rigor and passion.  Tools that the winemaker and staff believe in and consistently apply. The same goes for creating a great team.  It requires different tools, of course, but applied with the same degree of passion, intention and consistency. In the final analysis, a great wine paired with a great team is simply unstoppable.
 
 
 
Dale Biron and The Core Action Associates Team understand and support closely held and family owned wineries that wish to thrive (and other kinds of closely held and family businesses, too). You can reach him at (415) 381-2858 or www.core-action.com.

 

 

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