Step 1 - Create and Develop a strong team with solid expectations

 

You need to create a team atmosphere within your department with a sense of mission.  You need to share your vision of what the company can be, so they have a common purpose.  To get a group of individuals to think as one positive team, they also have to see you as a positive, good spirited and motivated hard worker. 

 

Here are 19 ways to help create and develop a strong team with solid expectations:

 

  1. Make sure the team is set and ready to go.  You need to first make sure you have planned, organized, and structured your department to its maximum potential.  We talked at length about organizing and structuring in Lesson 2.  Once structured, you will most likely have sub-team goals such as that of a Tier 1 and Tier 2 group.  In most cases you will have at least one team lead or SME.  This person must have the people skills in order to handle any individual issues in their group.  Even though a person might be technically inclined, they may not know how to deal with the everyday people issues that are commonplace in the work environment.  The ideal is to have a technically competent person who is also a people orientated team lead.  The point here is to have someone in the group, or in the sub-teams, who can help build teamwork by being there to help their team address the everyday type of issues.  This person might just be you if the department is not very big.  If you do have your department structured in a way that has sub-teams, make sure everyone within the whole department understands the goal of being part of one big team. 

 

  1. Start off with a fresh approach.  Are you a new manager with old staff?  Old, meaning they are settled in their bad habits.  When trying to create a team, you need to start with a fresh approach and positive attitude.  You might be asked to rescue a dying department.  If so, if you cannot make the old staff see the new light, you might need to clean up shop.  This also goes for employees with bad attitudes who are unwilling to change.  A few changes like these can turn around a department’s performance and morale almost overnight.  All it takes is a few bad apples to spoil the lot.  You do have to first try to rectify the situation before making any drastic decisions.  Lesson 5 goes into detail on how to deal with difficult employees.  However, if you have done all you could, you sometimes have to make the difficult, but needed decisions.  It’s important to make your mark right from the start.  People want a manager who will bring in a new and fresh approach to an old and stale department.  If there are no problems, then leave it alone.  That’s a fresh approach in itself; not changing for changing’s sake.

 

  1. Create a one or two paragraph mission statement.  This should be sent out and posted on the wall and should contain the company’s and departments values.  When we say mission statement, we are not talking about some corny poster on the wall that no one reads.  This is what you want the department to be known for, and what you want engraved into the minds of every employee.  The department’s goals and mission must have meaning for your employees.  They should be involved in creating the mission with simple declarative sentences.  The mission statement should come across, as making it seem like their job is truly important to the success of the company.  Make them feel connected to the company rather than just a place to pick up a paycheck.  The goal is to make them feel like they “fit in” and is a good part of their life.  The best words you can ever hear from someone is, “I like this company so much that I plan on working here until I retire.”  Here are a couple of ideas to use depending on the type of company you work for:

 

 

    • If your company provides a service that is making a positive contribution to the community, then you should promote something like, “Our contribution to the greater good makes the world a better place.”

 

    • If your company provides a service that is making a positive customer experience, then add something like, “Our every action can lift the customers spirits and soul.” 

 

    • If your company provides a value towards customer service, then you can add something like, “Providing world class service will set us apart from the rest of the competition.”  You might want to add something like, “We will win the customer over by going the extra mile.”

 

Try to consider things like:

 

·         What is the value of the company that the customers pay for? 

 

·         What is the competitive advantage? 

 

·         What kind of quality is expected?

 

 

At the end of the day it’s all about profitability, however, with stringent control and practicing ethical practices.  In other words, you do not want to make a statement such as, “Do whatever it takes to make the sale.”

 

The mission statement should be short and general, yet has a powerful punch.  You might want to throw in some team guidelines, or “Norms,” on team interaction as well.  It is also important to regularly review the goals with your staff associated with the mission.

 

Actually make it a point to test the mission statement.  Make sure people perceive the way you’re leading and managing the organization as being consistent with the mission statement itself. 

 

This statement might even be used as part of a marketing campaign or posted on the company’s web site, so make it good.

 

  1. Periodically walk around the department.  Take the time to sit down with your employees in their environment.  Have a small impromptu meeting with one individual or a couple of people every once in a while.  Bring a notebook with you and clearly show that you are documenting some good ideas, requests, issues, etc.  If it’s not something you can answer or resolve at that very moment, tell them you will look into these suggestions and comments and follow up as soon as possible.  They will be surprised that you truly listened and followed up even if you could not fulfill the request or idea.  They will know you tried and you will earn their respect. 

 

  1. Periodically hold team meetings.  For example, hold weekly meetings to go over the goals and share the direction in which the team is heading.  Go over items such as performance based stats, sales, customer compliments (and complaints…), needed materials, training requests, and any other pertinent information.   Also announce upcoming events such as new projects, new products, visiting VIP’s, or structure changes.  You want to always keep your team well informed and not left in the dark.  This is also a good chance to gain ideas for improvement, and if needed, how to ease any tension in the group.  Make sure to set up the meetings in your Outlook calendar to re-occur for at least 6 months.  You can update each meeting request with an agenda with items you would like to discuss.  Also make sure you have all of the needed paperwork to pass out to the team, or show in a PowerPoint presentation.  This will show you are serious about your expectations.  See Lesson 7 for more advice on holding effective meetings and giving presentations.

 

  1. Make sure everyone is fully trained and has what they need.   Although training was already mentioned in Lesson 2, it is worth mentioning again.  Always be aware of any training the team needs to accomplish the goals at hand.  They also need the right materials to do the job to its optimum. 

 

  1. Teach them how to work as a team.  Talk to your employees about how important it is that there is support amongst team members with respect for one another.  Team members need to rely on other team members to accomplish the work or the goals of the team, which is the basic principle of team spirit.  They will listen to you as you are their manager and more importantly, especially in this aspect, their leader.

 

  1. Show how the goals of the team tie into the organizational goals.  Explain to the team why their part in obtaining the departmental goals are also part of the big picture within the company’s goals.  When they perform to or above standards, the company is more likely to succeed.  Keep in mind that even though you do not want your department to be the weakest link within the departmental chain, you should still want to see other departments succeed.  You will have a solid company in which to work, and a very happy upper management team.  This should be stressed to the team as well.

 

  1. Make their opinions count and always follow up.  If someone brings a training idea, talks to you about furthering their career, or confines in you about how some improvements can be made, make sure you follow up on everything that has been brought to your attention.  If you can provide what was requested, you will not only build that persons morale, but it will inevitably get around the department that someone approached you with and idea and you followed up.  People like being taken seriously and if an idea is implemented, a strong sense of pride happens which can be contagious amongst other team members.  Stress that you want your team to be innovative and that you’re always willing to do whatever it takes to improve any process, procedure, or make any functional improvements.  Even if you cannot accommodate the request, or it is something they do not want to hear, at least they know you listened and took them seriously.  Just make sure you always follow up with the reason why.

 

  1. Support the differing strengths of your teammates.  Allow each person to bring their unique qualities to the table. There can be some new and innovative techniques and processes that can lead to doing things in new and different ways.

 

  1. Sometimes let the team decide.  Encourage the team to come up with improvements to existing processes, ideas on troubleshooting, equipment they need, etc.  If you build the right type of team, you can trust what is presented to you, and you can give it your blessing.  This is a great motivational tool as well.

 

  1. Make sure your team members are not afraid to speak up.  If no one speaks up or contributes anything during a meeting, there are potential ideas that will not be shared, or even worse, there may be problems that are not identified.  You want any ideas or concerns to be dealt with right then and there.  Make sure you stress that you want people to share even if they might create some waves.  You also want to make the timid people feel comfortable to participate.  Let them know that their contribution to the team is just as important as anyone else’s opinions.

 

  1. Make sure everyone understands what is expected.  Just saying we need to work as a team and leave it at that does very little and sounds like a corny cliché.  You need to give clear details of the expected goals, and potential consequences if the goals are not achieved.  Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each team member is key.

 

  1. Demand the needed attention to detail.  Express the importance to become a world-class organization by striving for perfection.  Make sure to stress the importance to “dot every I and cross every T.”   Inspire the team to make it their goal to treat each situation they find themselves in with absolute professionalism.  Customers and upper management knows the difference between good and great, or even great and brilliant performance.  Strive for brilliance in making sure every possible detail is given full attention.  You have to be excessively meticulous or else the flaws will become acceptable.  Once your team knows the attention to detail that is expected, you will see excellent results.  The higher quality the team, the better the teamwork.

 

  1. Stress that the customer is right, no matter how wrong they are...  When you are creating your team, you need to make sure they understand this simple core value.  Always tell your staff, and yourself, that without the customer there is no company, thus no paycheck.  You do not have to be quite so dramatic, but this is basically the truth.  Teams work a bit harder and are a little more patient when they remember this fact.

 

  1. Try to curb any negativity about customers or other departments.  It’s so easy to complain, criticize, and always find faults in customers or people in other departments.  A prime example is how customer service is always bashing a salesperson.  Even if it’s justified, you as manager do not want to add fuel to the fire.  You can always have a lighthearted thing to say like “Sales sure seems to pass the buck,” but follow it up with something like, “but we need sales to sell or else they will not bring income into the company.”  Then follow up with letting the team know that if it gets too out of hand, you will meet with the salespersons manager (and you should truly have a brief discussion with the sales manager).  Your staff might have a common grief about a customer or company employee, but watch it closely and don’t let it get out of hand.

 

  1. They should act as if a camera is filming them.  Have them pretend that a camera is filming their actions when working.  They will find themselves treating the customer like gold or precisely producing a product.  This little tip will always keep them in check (try it sometime…). 

 

  1. They should act like they are Ambassadors for the company.  If an employee and team feel like they truly represent the company in their actions, words, and attitude, they should feel like ambassadors to the company.  The team will feel their contribution to the company means something.  As ambassadors, they should feel like a true part of the success in the growth of the company.

 

  1. Team Building is not a one-time activity.  Be prepared to continually work on improvements, ideas, functions, etc.  Just calling a group of people a team does not necessarily mean they are working in harmony as a team.  This should be looked at as a continuous ongoing project.

 

 

Points to keep in mind:

 

  • Strong teams do not need to be micromanaged.  Even though micromanaging was mentioned in lesson 1, it is worth mentioning again.

 

  • Make sure you know what they know.  Just saying “do it” without knowing what needs to be done is a morale killer that will destroy teamwork.  You should be able to do the basics of each individual’s job in your department whether it is answering a phone, taking an order, making a product, or technically supporting a customer.  Besides, your confidence level will also rise if you understand the work being done by your team.

 

  • Balance is key.  You want your team to be happy, but at the same time not acting goofy.  You want them to be serious, but at the same time not stressed.  You want them to communicate openly, but at the same time not always complaining.  You want them to be easy going, but at the same time not flaky.  You want them to be communicative, but at the same time not so much of a social butterfly.  You want them to be independent, but not disrespectful.  Always make sure there is balance in the air and be prepared to counter-balance as soon as possible.

 

  • Project teams within a team.  This is a temporary team used for a specific reason.  For example, you might need to have some of your testing software updated.  This would not need the whole teams participation, but it is too big of a task to delegate to just one or two individuals.  In this case you would pick a small team whose task would be to work together on the project until the mission is complete.  Be sure to communicate exactly what is expected and in what timeframe. 

 

 

LESSON 3 - HOW TO MANAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES AND BUILD A STRONG TEAM
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