Does this sound at all familiar?
You glance at your watch. It’s twenty minutes until your weekly route rep meeting. Once again, it crept up on you. Do you suddenly feel like a root canal appointment would be preferable? You’re not alone. The truth is—most of your route reps feel exactly the same way. It isn’t you. It isn’t them. It’s the stilted way in which the dynamics of the standard route rep meeting in our industry create a stilted dialogue.
Usually, it goes down like this: The manager stands up and uses the weekly meet-up as an informational download session designed to instill standard procedures and corporate policy that, given today’s technology, really shouldn’t require face-to-face reiteration. Everyone leaves feeling as though some necessary evil has once again successfully been endured.
What a shame. There’s a valid purpose to the weekly route recap, but too often it gets lost. This is your one shot at getting the whole team together to learn from each other and share key insights that can boost your key performance indicators (KPIs). Unfortunately, along the way, the purpose has shifted from a bottom-up information pull to a top-down push strategy that puts the focus on the people furthest from the action. No wonder the meetings become monotonous and dry. However, by fundamentally shifting the meeting dynamics, you can start pulling out the information that will improve route results while developing real dialogue that builds the bottom-up culture required to grow business organically.
Participation in the weekly meeting should never be optional. This is a team-based meeting, so everyone should be prepared to participate. The meeting should follow a set format and last no longer than 30 minutes. Sound impossible? With a little discipline and practice, you should be able to get your entire team accustomed to a new way of doing things, especially when everyone starts to see dramatically improved results.
Step One: The Manager’s Opening
You do have an important role, and this is it. Give yourself five minutes to bring your route reps up-to-speed on key updates. Limit this to real-world information or a motivating brief that impacts the team. Avoid routine issues like vehicle maintenance, company forms or boilerplate. Your time is too important.
Remember: your five minutes is devoted to team development, so make it positive. If you have any negatives to impart, tackle them one-on-one, not in this meeting.
Once your five minutes is up (and it will take some practice to stick to your time limit!), your role switches. For the rest of the meeting, you should act as moderator, keeping the discussion moving, giving positive reinforcement and, most importantly, listening. Think reverse 80/20 rule—with the 80% devoted to discussion by your route reps, not the other way around.
Step Two: Route Rep Results
Now, transition into a quick update by each route rep on your team – and we do mean quick. Prior planning can assure speed and agility.
Select and make known five key performance metrics you want to track by the week and highlight them in each weekly meeting. Put these up on a chart or whiteboard in the meeting space and have each route rep post their weekly results on the chart. Or, better yet, fill in the blanks upon their return from each day’s deliveries. Because this system allows the team to focus on the most important metrics for success, we have seen growth-focused companies use metrics such as sales, retention, credits, net merchandise costs (input dollars less recovery dollars) and route growth.
Have each route rep take turns walking to the front of the room and sharing their results for the week. They can conclude their recap by telling what they’re most proud of that week or what they’re targeting for improvement.
This does two things. First, it helps every route rep overcome their discomfort, which can be expected at first. More importantly, it helps your brand ambassadors gain the confidence they need to successfully represent their performance to their customers. Make sure you provide a secure and comfortable environment within the group, so your route reps will not be embarrassed or discouraged. And reinforce the idea that the pressure of taking accountability for their performance in front of the group will help each member contribute to visibly improved weekly results for the team.
Step Three: Team Development
Be prepared to devote five to ten minutes each week to having a different route rep coach the rest of the team on a topic of his or her choice. Team development is too important to be an occasional thing. This is the time for your people to enlighten each other on the best practices they are seeing and instilling every day.
Get this cultural shift started by asking one of your route reps who has been doing particularly well to share insights on particular habits or metrics for success. Keep the discussion conversational and informal, with the focus always on giving your people the opportunity to share what they’ve learned and be recognized for their successes.
Step Four: The Wrap-up
Don’t underestimate the power of finishing strong. This is your moment to thank your team for their participation and commitment to improving results. Then, based on the opportunities and successes that have come to light during the discussions, select a leader for the following week’s session. For example, pick a rep who has had particular success in an area the group has been struggling with to share insights on that topic. This gives people a week to prepare their thoughts. Finally, pass out a handout with a bulleted list of other items that need to be conveyed but are not of sufficient importance to cut into valuable in-person meeting time.
As an executive, we encourage you to attend a weekly route rep meeting to gauge how much value they have for your team. It may take a few meetings for reps and managers to commit to the revised format and limit the meeting to only 30 minutes. But the weekly results will be well worth the effort. You’ll not only see more personal accountability and improved performance by your route reps, but you’ll also have taken a significant step towards building the bottom-up culture business today finds so evasive, yet so necessary.
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