From acquisitions to architects, from construction to customer service, a large homebuilder is made up of an extremely intricate and interconnected system of roles.
How does your team play? What motivates your employees, and how does the way they view themselves and the world around them help or hinder their work and the company?
Fit your company’s employees into one of the following six levels. This exercise is useful both within teams and company-wide. Work with each department head to slot every single employee into the level where you see them talking and acting most regularly.
This model has a couple of noteworthy features. First, it’s fluid—no one is locked in to a particular level, and you can absolutely coach and lead your employees to consistent improvement from one level to the next. Second, it places value on people’s mindset more than their skill set. It’s easy to get hung up on what people know how to do, but you’ll reap much better insight if you focus instead on what they believe and how they think.
Level 1—Playing to Not Lose
This is the level at which bottom-of-the-barrel employees operate. These are people who basically just show up for work. Their main motivator is fear of being fired. If you have very many of these folks around, take a hard look in the mirror at the standard you’re holding up and how you’re going about inspiring people. Then take a glance over your shoulder—managers who harbor a team of non-performers don’t have much job security themselves.
Level 2—Playing to Cruise
Employees at this level have found and are camped out within their “safe zone.” These are the individuals who consistently hit their minimum home sales numbers or customer satisfaction ratings or whatever metrics represent their job’s baseline expectations, but never blow away their top-end targets. They won’t land on the “naughty” list, but also don’t want to do so much that your expectations of them rise.
Level 3—Playing to Compete
On the surface, this level seems promising because employees at this level will engage in competition with their peers and can be motivated by contests and other external factors. The trouble at this level, though, is the presiding belief that the only way to make themselves look better is by making others look worse. When they don’t win, they’re quick to place blame on the competition, the land prices, other departments, etc. When they hit a plateau, they look to others (not themselves) to do something differently to get them “unstuck.”
I like to say people at these first three levels are operating “below the line.” They’re the folks who will find a field with easier conditions to succeed in when there is a market downturn or they perceive the circumstances as too tough. They view themselves as victims of their circumstances, and—to be perfectly frank—they’re expendable. But they don’t have to stay that way.
Level 4—Playing for Improvement
At this level, there’s a distinct shift. Employees at and above this level have achieved intrinsic motivation (that is, they no longer need an external stimulus to get better), and they no longer see themselves as victims. They say, “I’m in control of my destiny. If I’m going to improve, I need to adopt better beliefs and skill sets.”
Level 5—Playing for the Challenge
Employees at this level are self-aware, but also have gained the capacity to see clearly the challenges presented by their circumstances, both within the team and more broadly in the housing market. They can survey the field, be aware of their competition and where they fit on the team, and welcome the challenge of overcoming adversity. They want to earn recognition as the best marketing specialist or human resources representative or purchasing coordinator on the team, in the company, or in the whole market. They might say, “I can get around this obstacle, and here’s how.”
Level 6—Playing for Mastery
This level represents the pinnacle for your employees. It’s where, in the best way possible, they don’t give a damn about what anyone else is doing. They’ve achieved a Zen-like state where it seems as if they were born for the job they’re doing—their work just flows, and they don’t even see the challenges as challenges. They focus on their craft and are immersed in their belief system to the point that they don’t even acknowledge the impact of any outside factors.
Lead your employees to play for mastery. As your team starts to more closely resemble a crack squad of Zen warriors of home building than a collection of bottom-feeders satisfied with others’ leftovers, their (and your) job security, confidence, and sense of pride in a job well done will go through the roof.