Why It Worked: 6 Tools for Success For the Health of Your Company and Your Team

(by Dil­lan DiGio­vanni, health coach, speaker, & writer)

When Jen Park contacted me last May to support the manager teams of Diesel Cafe in Davis Square and Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, she demonstrated the number one reason why things worked from that point forward: she was 100% invested in the process.

Our work together over the next six months or so, focused on creating a healthier workplace culture via interpersonal skills, leadership development and wellness habits, was successful for some really important reasons, which I’ll share here. My experience with these teams stood out in stark contrast to other groups I’ve supported and when I thought about why, the answers became really clear.

Here’s why it worked:

1)    They really wanted it. Jen Park contacted me because she was ready to support her teams during a period of massive transition as they changed leadership responsibilities and planned to open a third location. She knew I was a customer of the cafes for many years and she was familiar with the work I did, so we set up a meeting for me to learn more about what she needed and how I could support her and her staff. There was no strong-arming to get started, she was ready to help strengthen her teams and it showed from the first meeting to our last session together. Once we began, each staff member showed up eager and ready to work. Between sessions, when I popped into one or the other location, I was greeted with enthusiastic smiles and comments about our sessions together. Our work was on their minds because they really wanted things to work as well as they possibly could and they really enjoyed our meetings!

2)    The bosses were on-board. Despite the imminent opening of a brand-new third location, Jen and Tucker, the co-owners and Jess, the Operations Manager, were present at the meetings, even if they needed a few minutes here and there to leave and address something pressing. Often, a business owner or boss will bring someone in to support their staff but leave when the real work begins. This can send the message that the staff is responsible for any changes that need to take place. With this group, that wasn’t the case. Jen and Jess demonstrated their commitment and personal responsibility for the growth and health and vitality of the manager teams by showing up for each and every meeting. They proved their own contributions were integral to making things work even better. WOW.

3)    Everyone contributed. This wasn’t a top-down process. Jen sought feedback in the form of questions, comments and suggestions for our sessions and I worked them into the activities we did together. I had ideas about what might be helpful but we worked on what really mattered to them, the issues that were relevant to their workplace and what they experienced every day. Our final session included a brainstorm and creation of an agreement of their commitments to themselves and each other moving forward so our work would continue to be relevant in their daily interactions. They literally made a contract that reflected their values as a team.

4)    They opened up. Since we were talking about interpersonal skills and leadership development, part of the work we did involved each person being vulnerable to discuss relative strengths and areas of personal and professional growth. This isn’t easy for anyone to do, but each person stepped up to the plate. Since there was already trust amongst each other, everyone brought the best intentions and a healthy dose of courage to see what was already working well and what would work better with a few tweaks here and there. Rather than talk around the personality differences that sometimes get in the way of productivity and efficiency, this group took them head-on to solve them.

5)    They stayed the course. Earlier this summer, I met with a different company team once and when I was invited back to do more work, the leader was so difficult to reach to schedule our sessions that I never went back. Another group cited cost as a reason that it wasn’t time to address their concerns. I experience this with my individual clients, too. This didn’t happen with Diesel and Bloc teams. Yes, things came up. Vacations happened. Other pressing issues took priority. It would have been easy to ditch the plan and succumb to the many things competing for precious time. We had to shuffle things around a few times, life happens—especially when you’re changing leadership teams and opening a brand-new store! They stayed the course and remained committed the work we were doing. Habits don’t change by mere intention, true transformation requires regular and consistent investment and practice of new skills over an extended period of time. These teams demonstrated that commitment, even when life got more and more busy.

6)    They committed to the long-term. Preparing for our last sessions together were difficult, I’m not going to lie. I had loved working with these people for many months and I was sad to see it end! This sadness ended quickly, however, when I received an email from Jen setting the intention to take our work to the next level—we are going to set up a long-term plan to keep our work fresh, relevant and sustainable. Since real mastery requires regular maintenance of skills and tools, I’ll be checking in with the teams to keep them practicing what matters most to them—namely to remain the innovative and thriving local businesses they have established themselves to be.

Over the course of the next few months, as Forge opens and Diesel and Bloc continue to get even more busy, it will give me great pleasure to know I helped provide these teams with tools to thrive personally and professionally.

Is your company doing anything like this? What would happen if it did?


To learn more about Dil­lan and his work, check out his web­site.