Building Your Team
Make the right call and choose wisely
By Susan van Kinsbergen, CDT
Whether you are starting a new business or have inherited a staff, you need to be an effective leader. However, building a strong team is probably the most important and difficult challenge facing any manager. Creating a productive and effective laboratory will result in satisfied employees, an increase in employee retention, improved morale, and ultimately a more profitable organization. This process has no shortcuts. Strategic thinking, recruiting, training, and succession planning are all part of the design when creating your dream team.
Pete Carroll, head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, is arguably one of the best team builders in football, leading his organization to a Super Bowl championship just 4 years into his tenure. In Carroll's first 2 years, the Seahawks made more than 502 transactions, which meant hirings, firings, and layoffs.
Poor performance cannot be changed without shifting out of a culture of complacency. Although always a challenging situation, building a great team means making tough choices, such as eliminating employees who may be hindering growth. High-performing teams can head quickly downhill if the negative elements are not removed from the culture. Waiting to see an improvement in performance or attitude in a problematic employee may be crippling an organization in the long run. Typically, the business rapidly improves once the problem has been resolved. Laboratory managers and owners need to depend on HR departments that have their business objectives foremost in mind.
Recruitment and Motivation
Be cautious when recruiting; go slow and wait for the best candidates. After making a choice, managers should strive to get to know the new hires. What are their passions and motivations? How will they best fit with the laboratory’s game plan? Once managers learn what motivates a team member, they should leverage that knowledge into getting the most from a team. Everyone is different. Some might need recognition, and others might shy away from that kind of attention. Some perform best working with headphones, but others need silence. Understanding how to motivate the individuals is an important skill for all managers.
Be a Role Model
Have fun, and let your team members know you’re one of them. It’s common to see Pete Carroll throwing the ball with players on the field during practices. He’s in the trenches with them and is ready to work as hard for the win as they are. This translates to business. If your team members know no job is too small for you, they will have a hard time refusing to help when needed.
Let the stars on your team shine because you may discover a natural leader. Here is a recent success story: An employee had just been promoted and was nervous and wanted to do well. Her boss told her not to worry and he wasn’t going to let her fail. Knowing she had his support gave her the confidence to make some difficult decisions. He gave her the responsibility, but also the authority to go along with it. Nothing is more frustrating than being responsible for results and not having the authority to make the changes necessary for improvement. This employee was mentored by someone who believed in her and gave her room to blossom. The lesson here is to discover who your leaders are and let them grow. Given the right conditions, they will become the best they can be and be pivotal for the success of the entire team.
So here are some fundamentals. If you give responsibility, give authority along with it. Never undermine that authority once given. Let your team leader lead. Establish the ground rules with your team leader as to which decisions can be made independently and when you should be consulted. If a poor decision is made and correction is necessary, make sure to do it in private and use it as a learning opportunity. Congratulate the individual for crossing that mistake off the list, for surely he or she won’t need to make that one again. Learn what motivates your team, and have fun.
Susan van Kinsbergen, CDT, is the owner of SvK Consulting in Newport Beach, CA.
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