Are your headquarters staff and field personnel on the same team, or does your organization have two teams? If you answered, one team, is that your opinion, or do you have evidence to prove it?
Here’s another question. Does headquarters staff serve the field, or does the field serve headquarters staff? I can’t begin to tell you how many organizations I’ve worked with on consulting projects where headquarters staff is under the misguided impression that field personnel work for them; where field personnel exist to serve the needs of headquarters staff vs. the other way around. Do you see something wrong with this picture? I certainly hope so!
Years ago when I worked for Mobil, my first staff position was in their headquarters in Fairfax, VA. I wasn’t in the job more than a week before the phone calls starting pouring in from my former field colleagues advising me, in very colorful language, that I was now a company expense item. No longer a revenue producer in the field, but overhead. They were right!
As headquarters staff, my new job responsibilities were to help support our field personnel perform their jobs more successfully by removing obstacles that hindered their performance and to serve as a ready and willing resource for them when they required assistance. In a nutshell, my headquarters staff job existed for one reason and one reason only - to serve the field!
Is that how your headquarters staff see their jobs? If you’re not sure, it’s easy to find the answer. Spend a day in the field talking with your director of operations, supervisors and store managers. You may be surprised to hear the number of, “Stop what you’re doing and get me this information ASAP!” requests that come from headquarters staff to store managers and supervisors, simply because a staff person has to complete his or her report.
And not just the request itself, but the tone and attitude is: “You work for me.” Really? The center of an organization’s universe does not evolve around some report produced by a staff position. The center of the universe for all organizations, in any industry, starts and ends with the customer.
In the convenience industry, the customer resides in the store, not headquarters. If you agree that the customer is the most important person to your organization, then the next most important person in your organization is the one serving the customer – sales associates and store managers.
Next in line in the serving the customer process are those people serving the people who serve the customer – store supervisors, and operations personnel. The role of headquarters staff is to serve the field, by helping them succeed in their jobs of helping their store managers and sales associates serve the needs of their customers.
Walk in My Shoes
And now for the other side of the coin. I’ve worked with several organizations where headquarter staff and field personnel are one team, connected at the hip, operating on the same page. The reason? Headquarter staff got out of the office and spent time in the field with the people they serve (their customers) in an effort to better understand their jobs, and how they can better serve them. It also helped field personnel better understand how their actions and inactions impact the job performance of headquarters staff. This two-way understanding fosters a win-win, “Help me help you” relationship.
If your headquarters staff hasn’t spent time in the field understanding how their job impacts field performance, then they are severely handicapped in performing their jobs at optimal levels. For organizational efficiency and maximum performance, you need one team, one purpose, heading in one direction.