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Panel of Experts: Involvement, Incentives Build Better Teams (Part 1 of 3)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“Equipment, chemicals, etc., play a huge part in our laundry’s success, but our most important asset is our people. We have to work well as a team. In what ways can I improve my team-building skills and learn how to spot trouble that could drag down staff morale and curtail production?”

Consulting Services: David Chadsey, Capital Equipment Consulting, Winter Haven, Fla.

The truth is everybody wants to be part of a group. It is part of our DNA. No matter who you are or what you do, you want to be on a winning team.

david chadseyGreat organizations understand this natural inclination, and they build on it. Team building in the workplace not only increases productivity and return, it adds to the personal fulfillment of all those who work for you. When those people leave at the end of the day (or their shift), the successful corporate team is further magnified to all the families represented in your organization. In my house, when Momma’s happy, everybody’s happy.

Team Identity

Your team needs to have an identity. What do you want your organization to be known for? Quality Linen On Time Every Day? Amazing Customer Service? Or maybe Efficiency and Speed to Market?

If your parent organization has a corporate identity, your department can align itself with this overall team concept. The first step in team building is team identity; it is the core of whom you are and what your team members strive to achieve.

In the 1970s, an unusual group of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive linemen became known as the Steel Curtain. Just like you, there were days when those fellas did not want to come to work. They got tired. They got hurt. But they had an identity as a unit that would not compromise control of the line of scrimmage. Something special rose up in them based on that identity that is still recognized 35 years later.

Communicate the Vision

From initial employee orientation, through training and regular staff meetings, managers need to communicate the vision of the team’s identity. Policies and practices should be reinforced by the purpose.

“We answer the phone before the third ring because we have the best customer service in the industry.”

“Our production standard on the small-piece folder is 800 pool towels per hour because we are committed to on-time delivery.”

“We monitor wash water temperatures and chemistry because we are committed to quality.”

Whether you love or hate Walmart, you know it has low prices. The team has an identity that is reinforced by all levels of management every day.

Communicating the team vision is critical. As a leader and manager, if you can effectively communicate your identity and vision, your people will amaze you. Well-coached team members will step up and fulfill corporate vision in areas you may not have even addressed.

Execute the Plan

This is the hard part. I have never met a laundry operator who wanted a reputation for getting “Most of the Linen Clean Most of the Time.” Nobody has the goal of “Delivery Guaranteed On-Time, Except When We’re Late.”

Executing the team plan requires a systematic approach to performance. There are a lot of resources available to help you formally execute your plan. Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, ISO 9000 and Miller Heiman are a few that have been popular in recent years across a wide range of industry sectors. Accessing professional, process-oriented support will provide your organization with the structure to help build a successful team.

Equipment Manufacturing: Chuck Anderson, Ellis Corp., San Diego, Calif.

The greatest attribute of any manager is the ability to understand and be understood. Open communication is the best way to improve employee morale and spot trouble.

chuck andersonPraise motivates people! Research shows that in order to increase motivation and ensure top performance, we need to praise at least five times more often than we find fault or criticize. Try not to praise and criticize in the same meeting or conversation. I encourage you to go out and find at least two employees to praise today!

Be consistent and timely. Whether you have daily, weekly or monthly meetings, stay on time and follow up on previous goals and achievements. If action items are not repeatedly addressed, the team will feel the meetings are a waste of time.

Be certain that the purpose and objectives of the team are clearly defined. The team must be aligned around common objectives. People enjoy working toward a clearly defined goal. Write the major objectives on a whiteboard each week to keep the team focused.

Share information and delegate. Many times team leaders or managers have a difficult time delegating and/or sharing information because they fear losing their authority. But if leaders don’t delegate and share information, they lose their time, energy and ability to lead.

Continuously coach and support the development of your team leaders. This may involve hiring outside professionals, or sending your team leaders to “boot camp,” but this will pay dividends in a more productive and motivated team.

Encourage suggestions and ideas. Maybe you have been looking into how to improve production in a certain area. The person doing the work may actually already have the idea since they are involved in the task each day.

Get involved! Make time this week to roll up your sleeves and work the ironer for a couple hours or help load and unload the washers and dryers. This will build camaraderie with your employees and help break down barriers.

Tomorrow: Answers from the uniforms and commercial laundry sectors.

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