Team - There is no "I," but the "A" is for accountability

August 29, 2012

Team sports analogies have long been used in home building for obvious reasons.  They both have the common component of individual performances that roll up into team results.  Home building is the ultimate team endeavor, made up of internal employees and external trade partners numbering into the thousands.

Why is teamwork important in home building?  The answer is potent – customers' teamwork ratings are highly correlated to customer referring activity and future referral sales! 

Let’s be clear - customers don’t want a hero in the home building company, for example a Salesperson who “made their builder” deliver on an expectation.  While a hero may sound like a good idea, they actually work against overall teamwork and sap the customer’s enthusiasm for the entire organization.  It would be much smarter for the Salesperson in this example to work behind the scenes to resolve any customer issues and then proclaim to the customer that “We are sorry about this expectation gap.  The entire team cares deeply about customer satisfaction and as a customer relations gesture has agreed (or not) to meet this customer expectation.”  This approach sends a strong signal of company unity, teamwork, demonstrates respect for fellow teammates, and shows that customer centricity exists throughout the entire organization.

Let’s step outside our industry for another example.  Imagine you are in a restaurant, your food order is delivered incorrectly, and you ask the server to correct it.  The server could say something like, “Not again!  Those cooks are messing up today.  Don’t worry, I’ll go talk to them and make them fix this!”  In this scenario, the server has a hero complex and wants credit for being a “fixer” to the detriment of the dining experience, the restaurant, and the customer enthusiasm.  A better server response could be, “We are so, sorry!  Our kitchen staff is passionate about preparing correct and delicious food orders.  Let me bring this to their attention and I am sure they will address this immediately.”  This alternative response signals 1) respect for the kitchen teammates, 2) promises immediate attention, and 3) signals customer centricity.   So, a wrong food order can turn out to be an enthusiasm booster, instead of an enthusiasm vampire.  A big lesson here is that customers who are confident in the entire TEAM, refer family and friends at a much higher rate than they do a single “hero.”  Customers would not risk referring a family member or friend to a restaurant or builder that depends on a hero to “fix” stuff.

How do you spot employees with these enthusiasm robbing behaviors in your organization?  It’s easy - you can usually hear them!  Listen closely for their over use of words like “I” and “my.”  As in “I have lots and floor plans,” “my model,” “my builder,” “Let me see what I can do for you,” “my framers,” ‘my vendors,” etc.  Team focused employees more commonly use words like “we,” “our,” etc.

This week’s management meeting questions – Do we value, teach and foster teamwork in our organization?  Do we have employees with a customer enthusiasm robbing “hero complex,” damaging future referring activity and referral sales?

For a more complete understanding of the virtues and values of Teamwork, how to foster it, how to grow it, and how to measure it, please read “There Is No I in Team, But there is an “A” for Accountability” in the upcoming September issue of Professional Builder Magazine

Charlie Scott has over 30 years of industry experience as a home builder, author, columnist, speaker, consultant, National Housing Quality Award Examiner and Hall of Fame member. Charlie has worked with over 200 of the nation’s best home building companies. He has been through five major industry downturns and during 2008 to 2011 housing depression, he gave away over 1,000 determined donkeys toys as encouragement. He can be reached at


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