The Art of Building & Maintaining An Effective Team

George CappannelliBy George Cappannelli (Adapted From A Phoenix Business Journal Article)

Building and maintaining an effective team is not an easy job, especially in these complex times when the composition of the workforce has changed so dramatically and so many of the rules of doing business are in a state of flux. Still, easy or not, our experience shows that a large number of individuals in this awkward business climate – from CEOs to line personnel – appear to underestimate the importance of a well functioning team.

This is one of the reasons many organizations find themselves making the same costly mistakes over and over again? One of the most costly is that some organizations have gotten into the habit of viewing their workforce through the same eyes and utilizing the same measurements they apply to their physical plant, inventory, cost of materials, etc. While this may make sense from an accounting standpoint, in the end it makes little or no sense from a productivity and performance standpoint. A workforce is comprised of people, and people, fortunately for us and unfortunately for accountants do not fit into neat little columns on Excel spreadsheets.

There are a couple of other essential things some organizations forget. Too often they forget that the primary reason they exist is to serve the needs of their customers, clients and their own people as well as their investors. What about profitability? Profitability is essential, of course. Without it companies simply do not survive. But without a great, dedicated and committed team, profits can decline quickly which is one of the reasons we believe, profits are only one of the criteria by which we need to measure the overall health and effectiveness of an organization.

What’s so important about this awareness? Everything! If an organization wants to be successful it cannot afford to view or treat people as a commodity. It cannot try to get by doing only what is minimal or marginally necessary to support them. It cannot forget that the process of developing people requires time, energy and investment.

With time at such a premium, manpower at reduced levels and the chart of accounts being used as the primary tracking system, remembering these things is, of course, not easy. However, calling upon divisional directors and managers, as well as human resource and organizational development professionals to increase efficiency and profitability and then to cut their budgets and deny them the support and resources necessary to get the job done will simply not work.

Even in a world as complex and economically challenged as ours, organizations have to take the time to map workforce development against company vision, to articulate and support the development of effective and realistic training and career path goals – goals that are relevant to human beings not to physical plant and materials. Yes, even in a business climate as competitive as this, organizations have to take the time to establish best practices and develop policies and procedures that actually support people in building strong interpersonal relationships, communicating effectively, and contributing meaningfully to the goals of the organization. This is not “touchy feely stuff.” This is bottom line stuff!

Who has the time and money for this these days? Remember that old ad campaign that advanced the premise about paying now or paying later? Well, this certainly applies here. The answer to this question of time and money is – whoever wants to build and maintain a profitable and sustainable company will build and maintain an effective team!

In the language of navigation this means an organization has to decide on its destination, chart its course and remember why it is in business. It means the organization has to keep its eyes on the “real” bottom line by remembering that building true teaming requires good working conditions, solid benefits, strong training and career development programs, and company values that encourage a good balance between personal and professional lives. These are not perks. They are essential and they are the direct correlates to profitability, productivity, performance and employee job satisfaction.

Success Is No Accident – So if you want your organization to navigate the often turbulent currents of today’s complex business environments; if you want to create a workforce that is loyal and committed to the best and highest goals of your organization remember – people are your greatest asset; the source of innovation and new product and service development. Ultimately, people are your intellectual capital. They are also the means by which the needs of customers and clients are satisfied. They are the engine that drives process improvement and the smooth and effective implementation of change. On the other side of the coin, organizations that fail to remember this point inherit a number of ills. They lose good people, experience low levels of trust, are victimized by poor communications, poor customer service and reduced performance and ultimately this turns into lower market shares and decreasing profit margins.

Let’s recap a few simple rules about effective workforce development.

• Put people first
• Invest in the solid training and development programs
• Include people at all levels in the decision making process
• Keep communication channels open up and down the organization
• Provide sufficient challenge and responsibility
• Encourage and reward risk
• Provide excellent benefits
• Support a balanced lifestyle

Other Things You Can Do

• Ask your people what contributes most to their performance.
• Include members of the workforce in all workforce design & policy issues.
• Benchmark & implement the best practices in workforce development
• Keep your programs as simple and relevant as possible.
• Treat change and continuous improvement as your allies.
• Celebrate and acknowledge people continually at all levels.

What’s the bottom line? If you want to have a dynamic, powerful, effective and profitable company, start treating your people as you do your most valued customers. And commit this old adage to memory – If you think education (workforce development) is expensive, try ignorance!”

For more information on consulting and coaching services based on the ideas that are captured in this article, visit www.agenation.com/consulting or www.georgecappannelli.com.

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