Respect Every Individual: The Huddle

By: Dominic Bria

Most managers who lead daily or weekly huddles understand that they are not the place to reprimand or embarrass team members. That’s a basic part of respecting every individual that anyone familiar with Shingo Guiding Principles should understand. What may be less understood about the role of huddles in respecting every individual is in keeping the huddle brief and restricting it to only topics team members need today or this week, depending on how often you huddle.

Research done as part of Shingo Insight™ shows clearly that team members want to be valued and the way to show it is not so much by public praise as it is in the way the organization treats an employee’s time at work. Empowerment and access to resources—including time to do their work—consistently rank high on the list of antecedents to employee engagement. I was at a healthcare company that had daily huddles with all team members. Managers took turns providing mandatory inspirational quotes and games.

One manager commented privately that he felt like every morning was a forced high school pep rally. Huddles that should have taken 5-10 minutes were drawn out to 20-30 minutes in an effort to do what? Inspire loyalty? Engagement? Fun? Back office staff felt stressed about getting everything prepped for the day and often came in early—unpaid—to make sure they had enough time to make preparations for the day and still attend the mandatory daily huddle right in the middle of it all.

By keeping huddles short and strictly focused, the message a leader sends to team members is that their time is valuable. The respect is shown consistently even when it isn’t spoken. It’s clear that some leaders want to use huddles to start the day on a bright note and everyone has their own opinion about how well that works. What seems clear from the data collected by the Shingo Institute is that brevity and utility in a huddle send a much clearer message to employees about their value to the organization.

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