Huddles: Why They Create the Ultimate Place for Effective Team Communication

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

Jim Rohn

Some of you might already know my story, but I will add a very brief history for those of you who don’t. I began in 1994 with no industry education, ran like a madman for about 13 years, and in many ways was very successful. The problem was that I started to burn out and was not nearly as happy as I probably should have been, considering I had many of the privileges that so many in this world don’t. I was able-bodied, ambitious, had a half-sound mind, a young supportive family, and lived amongst a thriving and robust marketplace that was hungry for the type of work I was providing. Looking back, I’d have to say life was pretty good. But for me, good wasn’t enough; I wanted my definition of great!

Okay, back to the story and why having Huddles matters A LOT.

You may have skipped past the good old days of running a start-up business by buying into one that already existed, but I certainly didn’t. It still feels like yesterday that it was only me, a truck, and a lawnmower. Back then, my formal scheduling consisted of being sure Mr. Prudholms, Mr. Allens, and a handful of other lawn maintenance clients ended up getting done on the right day of the week. I showed up on time, did my best work, more clients came on board, and before long, I was doing the schedule not only for myself, but 5, then 10, then 15, then 20 employees. After all, getting the services you promised your clients done is all you have to do to grow a good business and make money, right? 

And then it hits you.

Maybe you talked to a colleague or mentor, read a book, or attended an industry summit like the ones the Landscape Management Network has hosted in the past. The message that, besides delivering your services there will be a lot of work, is starting to come through loud and clear. “How will we even decide where to start?” The answer is through effective communication. The type of communication that can be had by holding effective Huddles. I don’t know of a single business owner I’ve talked with who hasn’t at one time or another challenged the thought of holding team meetings. So the question you ask is, “Do I have to?” 

The obvious answer is: NO. If you are not interested in discussing key performance indicators and areas of improvement that will drive higher employee engagement and overall company performance, then avoid them at all costs. 

The correct answer is: YES!  To move your business to the next level, you have to involve your team in running the company. If you don’t, they simply won’t buy-in; and if they don’t buy-in, they won’t be engaged; and if they’re not engaged, you won’t get the results you want. I’d say that you probably already precisely know what I am talking about, so I’m suggesting to get past your fears and stubborn-mindedness and get to it. 

Okay, I made my point, so what exactly is a Huddle?

At our Open Book Management Huddles, we intentionally communicate with our team. It’s a place where our people gather around scoreboards to follow the action and keep our game’s score. Financial and non-financial key metrics are not only reported but, more importantly, discussed and forecasted.

What do the numbers mean? How do they measure up against the goal? How can we work to get them where we want them to be? Where does where we are forecasting sit relative to our Culture and Profit GainSharing plans? 

Think of Huddles the same way you think of a sports team calling a timeout to come up with the next important play. The goal is to take a moment and develop a plan that will better everyone’s outcome. The only difference is that our Huddles are 99% scheduled in advance.  We try to NEVER allow the play to get ahead of us!

Does over 150 Huddles a year sound crazy, to you?

Of course, it does, and there was a time I thought so too, but not anymore. I now consider Huddles time-saving, sacred events. So much so that if I tried to cancel even one, I would have to have a damn good reason, or I would be met with some significant resistance from my team. 

Why? Because we have all agreed they are essential, and we do our best to hold each other accountable.  

Our business, Creative Roots Landscaping, has the following Huddles scheduled. 

  • A daily 15-minute “toolbox chat” for each crew.
  • A weekly 20-minute “gross profit and operations” for each department.
  • A weekly 60-minute “profit and loss financial, business literacy and Core Values” for everyone in the company.
  • A weekly 15-minute “operations check-in” between managers of each division.
  • A monthly 60-90 minute “strategy” for owners.
  • An annual “High Involvement Planning” for everyone in the company.   
  • Plus any impromptu ones we need from time to time.  

What?! There’s more? 

You bet there is. We also schedule employee self-assessments and goal setting time, company-wide 360 reviews, company-wide performance reviews, year-end In Review surveys, vehicle maintenance and inspections, leadership training, skills training, relationship building events with our team, suppliers, and sub-contractors, Community Give Back – everything related to delivering on promises to our customers and many other things that are probably escaping me at the moment.

How can one possibly fit them all in?

Breathe. Where there is a will, there is a way. You would be correct if you thought that at first, trying to put all of this together without help while also trying to keep customers happy would be exhausting. It is, and I can sympathize, but at the same time, I can tell you there is NO other choice if you want to grow in a manner that does not require you to be a part of every decision for it to be a good one. I am not saying you need to start with 150+ Huddles a year. I am saying that if you want different and better results, just get started

Tips to help you run good Huddles.

  • Have them on time, EVERY TIME.
  • Break the ice. Start with a few minutes of good news from your team.
  • Serve some coffee or food. Landscapers are always hungry, aren’t they?
  • Focus on financial and operational numbers, and be sure to spend 80% of your time forward forecasting and not discussing the past.
  • Listen to what people say, even when you hear crickets while waiting. Listening is something I had to work hard on. 
  • Get people involved. A different employee in our company owns each line item on our scoreboards and the various other initiatives. They are expected to come prepared to report and answer any questions the rest of the team may ask. 
  • Use storytelling to help people understand how the numbers are no more than stories about people. 
  • Try never to leave behind a topic that needs resolution without making an action plan to address it.  If it needs to be handled outside of the Huddle time, then that is the plan. 
  • Find creative ways to mix it up now and then. Try a guest speaker, or maybe invite other company owners who want to come and see how your Huddles run so effectively. 
  • Add in some learning tidbits to get people thinking. Every week at our 60-minute financial meeting, we have what we call a “Best Guess” game. We take a number from our P&L or Balance sheet and get everyone on the team to guess the number without going over it. An example might be “how much have we spent to date on fuel company-wide?” or “what % of total sales has the expense of labour been on average for the past two years in maintenance?” Do you see what we are doing? The winner gets a $5 Tim Horton’s gift card. 
  • Try ending with people giving announcements – personal or work-related – code greens – customer accolades – and last but not least, appreciations. 

Last but NOT least: Don’t give up.

It’s normal to want instant gratification from your efforts, but the truth is that it usually takes a lot more work than you’d expect to do something great. 

That is just the way it is.

There are no shortcuts.

You either discipline yourself now or suffer the pain of regret later.  

In the words of Gary Vee, “I hope that you have the passion and the humility to start actually doing the work required to achieve the shit that is coming out of your mouth.”  I could not have said it better and although his delivery is a bit rough around the edges, I believe he is speaking from the heart.


About Me

Through my experiences, I have been fascinated by business and all it offers to improve people’s lives. From working on the shovel, business visioning, and everything in between, to now sharing my experiences through personalized coaching services, my goal is to help other owners work on their business, increase profits, and have more time for themselves while finding enjoyment along the way.

Need Someone To Talk To?

What’s your biggest pain point? Let’s connect to discuss how having me coach you through implementing Open Book Management can change your business for the better. 

To schedule a time to chat with me, visit https://rmark.ca/contact/ 

One thought on “Huddles: Why They Create the Ultimate Place for Effective Team Communication

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