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MBCEA Helps Build Strong Teams

Gary T Smith New

Gary SmithToday we are going to talk about hockey. Hockey? In the dead of summer? Yes, hockey. Because as I write, the Chicago Blackhawks have just won the Stanley Cup and hockey is heavy on my mind.

The funny thing about hockey is sometimes superstars don't make it. Hockey, like business (you thought this was just going to be about hockey?) is a team sport and we all know there is no "I" in team. Not all superstars know how to play well with others, and in hockey this means they will eventually be cut. In hockey, an individual's abilities can be greatly enhanced by the power of the team. A ragtag bunch of mediocre players that have the right work ethic, integrity and dedication can be a super team with the right management.

In business and in any team sport, it is important that every player know exactly what his job is and how to execute that job. This does not happen in a vacuum. There is training and coaching and pre- and post-game reviews of the highlight reels. There is a finely tuned sense of trust and respect. There is also clarity and understanding of who does what.

Job descriptions are not just pieces of paper in your personnel files; they are agreements between you and your staff. They are outlines of responsibilities so everyone understands and is on the same page. They help your team run smoothly because everyone is on the same page. People need to know their boundaries. They need to know what is expected of them. They need to have authority to perform the key elements of their jobs. They need to know what they are doing right and what their areas for improvement are. They need to know what is expected of their teammates, what authority their teammates have. They need to know who to go to with a question. Teams and businesses that have high employee engagement, good morale and esprit de corps have workers that know and understand each other's roles and responsibilities.

Role clarification is important for high-functioning teams. It is also an essential duty of management. The MBCEA recently received approval for a new Metal Building Assembler Accreditation program, AC478. Central to the management system required for accreditation are three roles: safety manager, training manager and quality manager. There are clear and specific job descriptions for each. If you are a small company, the owner or one employee may perform all three roles; the program does not assume or require a certain number of employees. It does require; however, that those unique qualities that define each job be recognized and understood by everyone within the organization.

Effective teams also have effective meetings. Meetings are opportunities to address who does what, to manage expectations and lay out chains of command. Consider the following meetings and the powerful opportunities they present:

 

  • Project Meeting: For all intents and purposes, a project is a mini business. There are chains of command, defined roles and responsibilities, and goals and objectives. If you are not having project meetings, I encourage you to do so. This is a perfect opportunity to make sure everyone is on the same page, to clarify who does what and to address any issues before they become problems.
  • Post-project Review Meetings: These should occur for every project. They are not long, drawn out affairs but are quick and focused. There should be a project report card. Did we come in ahead of budget? Did we meet our manpower projections? Did we control costs? Did we satisfy our client? These gatherings are opportunities to learn from mistakes, address areas for improvement and celebrate successes.
  • Safety Meetings: If safety is the priority for everything we do, it stands to reason everyone needs to know who does what, how they do it, who has what level of authority, etc. Safety meetings are ideal opportunities to review day-to-day execution of safety plans, safety requirements for the current projects and in-house safety. They are also where you make sure everyone is completely aware of the various levels of authority with regards to safety infractions. For example, if your foreman is authorized to dismiss a worker from a job site for an infraction, the foreman should know he has that authority and the workers should know it as well. Sounds simple, but we all know the adage about ASSUME.
  • Board Meetings: Do you have regular board meetings? Do you even have a board? I am not talking a stuffy meeting full of suits on Wall Street, but a meeting of your key players and perhaps a few trusted advisors. A group of people whose opinion you value; who can help you stay true to your stated objectives. You should meet at least once a year, but twice or quarterly is even better. You should discuss what you are doing right and what you can be doing better. You should review your processes, your profit and loss, your major customers and your staff. As with the previous meetings, this is not just a talking fest but an opportunity to drive continuous improvement.

 

It all comes full circle: if you want a strong team, everyone on the team needs to know what is expected of them and what to expect from others. You need to practice, practice and practice some more. When you take the time to review your processes, procedures and people, you ensure a finely tuned team. You don't need superstars, but you do need everyone skating in the same direction with a united sense of purpose. That's how Stanley Cups are won, that's how businesses stay strong.

The MBCEA has sample job descriptions, employee evaluation forms, training programs, orientation programs, etc. in the members only area of the website (www.mbcea.org). The tools are there for your use, but they only work if you use 'em!

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Gary T. Smith is president of Thomas Phoenix International Inc., Mount Holly, N.J. He serves as president of the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association, chair of the Metal Buildings Institute Apprenticeship Committee and chair of the MBCEA Accreditation Review Committee. He is an outspoken proponent of training and education for the metal building industry.