Sometimes bringing individual employees together to transform business practices and work as a high-performing team can be one of the more difficult decisions for a leader.
At American Lumber, we know firsthand how important, and how difficult, building and maintaining a culture of teamwork can be. We promote it constantly because we recognize it is one of the best ways to make the organization better. From green hardwood lumber buyers and kiln drying supervisors to our lumber traders and customer service personnel, teamwork is essential.
From experience, these are some guidelines we have found help us strengthen a culture of teamwork.
Hiring the right people is the starting point. It's no longer enough to bring on new hires solely for the individual skills they possess. If you are trying to build a culture of teamwork it is important to look for men and women who are temperamentally inclined to work as part of a team. Incorporate questions in the interview process designed to offer insight into an individual's history of teamwork, involvement in large-scale projects with co-workers, etc. Military veterans, academic group leaders and prior competitive athletes possess many of these skills.
Set clear goals and ground rules for operation. Some would term this as framing the "team mission." Employees will work harder (and function better as a team) if they understand how their efforts contribute to the organization's long-term growth. We see this being effective in natural work centers such as the sawmill, the concentration yard, or the accounting department. Synergized are realized when everyone is working towards the same common goal.
Communications openly. Maintaining respectful communications--and providing information a team needs to do its job--is absolutely essential for promoting teamwork and productivity. Managers and leaders should ensure that each team member receives key emails and any other forms of information as needed. Be ready to answer questions and communicate in the form most suitable for the situation so everyone remains on the same page.
Let the team the tackle big problem. After the team has proven itself to work effectively do not be afraid to have them take on big problems. Assuming you assembled a cohesive group of smart, talented individuals as a functional group they could be a resource too valuable to waste. Of course, it is good practice to offer basic guidelines and set clear objectives, but giving the team the latitude to operate on its own can result in unexpected (and highly welcome) solutions.
Celebrate success. Being part of a team can (and should) be fun, as well as productive. Look for opportunities, both on-site and off-site, to encourage team-building activities. When employees gather in a more informal setting a sense of camaraderie emerges and bonds are formed that will carry over to their work efforts.
What other best practices have you discovered in this area? Let us know we would love to try them!
American Lumber Company