You know how it feels when your employees seem to be stuck in a rut. “Little” mistakes happen. Tasks aren't done as efficiently as they could be. Lots of trips to the lumberyard are occurring.

How do you shake it up so your good folks start getting more focused? Here are two suggestions.

A long time ago, I attended the regular company meeting of a cabinet company we worked with often. I knew the owner was frustrated with the small choices his people made that were reducing the net profit. For example, in cabinet construction, the act of deciding how cabinet parts will be cut out of sheets of raw materials often means the difference between making and losing money. At one point, the owner picked a scrap from the scrap bin and threw it across the room while saying something like “There goes our profit!” I never forgot the act and the lesson, and I think his people feel the same.

As time went by, I realized our employees needed help getting focused on what success looked like for each of them, every day. So here is what I did.

At a company meeting I took a dollar bill and I started tearing it up. With each piece I would identify a current practice, such as going to the lumberyard more than one time a week, which was damaging the company’s ability to make a profit and thus our ability to give people pay raises. Then I would throw the pieces in a pile.

After the dollar was simply shreds I asked everyone how much it was worth. Everyone got the point. Over time people’s behaviors shifted, resulting in the company being a better place to work, net profit being earned, and wage increases becoming possible.

Sometimes you need to create a dramatic moment, something that people in the company will talk about for a long time, something that people will reference when making decisions.

Find an act that is a fit for you and the work your people do. Don’t get angry. Rather, talk objectively about the problems and what could be done differently.

You, and they, will never forget it.