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Building a Team

The importance of employees working together

Last fall during the World Series, USA Today newspaper, printed a chart outlining how the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees had managed to build such dominant teams in the 1990's. Each team had been built through the traditional farm clubs, trades, and free agency acquisitions. In the 1960's, I remember seeing a similar report on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers were able to build their decade dominating team through farm clubs, and an occasional trade, as free agency did not exist. Each of these teams were able to solve their needs for team building by mastering the methods that were available to them at that time. Several years ago, I remember visiting with a dealer at his store. I noticed the hours posted on his front door had been changed. "I thought you were open on Sundays", was the comment I made.

The response was, "I was. But none of my employees would work on Sundays, so I had to go back to the old hours. You are open on Sundays, aren't you?" As I answered yes, the surprise was his follow up comment. "You are so fortunate. You have good employees".

As the discussion continued, I asked how he could consider me to be "fortunate" when my business had fifteen employees at that time. "Do you think I have been fortunate fifteen times as I have hired each of them?" Unlike baseball, retailing does not traditionally have trades available as an option for building a team.

The farm club could be equated to hiring a person who has little experience in the auto trim industry, but shows certain traits which you believe would allow you to train them to be an excellent employee.

The idea of a free agent can be accomplished through one of two methods. The first is the person who is working at another shop who shows up on your doorstop looking for a job. The second way is to send your best employee out to shop the competition and when they find someone whom they believe would make a good employee, inform you so that you could call the candidate and offer them a job with you.

Either way, we get back to the dealer who had to close on Sundays because no one would work. He could see the point I was trying to make about not just "finding" fifteen good employees, but it did not provide him with the answer to his staffing problem. The solution to building a team is quite simple. But it is not easy. Let's take a look at an example business with five employees and one owner. Ask the owner to create a list of his employees with the first person being the best employee, and the worst employee being the fifth person on the list.

Without seeing the list of five, we will determine the sequence by asking the owner and each of the employees one question. That question comes in the form of a test; write down in the order of importance, from one to ten, what you are to do at this job. As we collect the answers from each of the employees and the owner, we will determine what is happening, and what should be happening in this shop.

For example, if there is a sales floor on which each of the five employees can interact with the customers, the owner may have number one on his list as, "Interact with the customer". Looking on the five lists, we may find the person taking care of office duties having listed number one as answering the phone, doing the books, or taking care of the money. We may find that the two installers have lists whose top three answers are ordering supplies, getting the installation done, or getting the service ticket written.

Of the two remaining employees, one may have waiting on customers at the top of his list, while the other has keeping the sales floor and waiting room neat as his top of the list duty. As we have found only one of the five employees to have the same number one task listed that the boss has, is it any wonder this would be the person who the boss has listed as being his best employee?

What we may actually have are five excellent employees, but a group of five that is out of sync with the employer. It is a lot like the baseball team and its manager. You have undoubtedly seen the occasion where the manager walks to the mound, is joined by the catcher, and perhaps the infield players. During this brief meeting, the manager is reviewing with the players what they are going to do with the next batter, and how each of the players is to react. After all, we do not need two people running to retrieve the bunt with no one covering first base.

Let's look again at the list of ten items. If we examine the list of each employee, we will be able to rate the employees from best to worst as we see whose list most closely reflects the list of the employer. To eliminate this exercise from just being a comparison of lists, it can be an exercise which allows you to see what the employees perceive as being most important, and what the employer determines will be the most important.

Just like the manager of the baseball team, the employer has the responsibility of gathering his team and determining how the various responsibilities will be handled. Many of the better employers will tell you they have this meeting for an hour every other week. A few of the best, will tell you they have one of these meetings for ten to fifteen minutes every morning. And still, they will continue to go through the drill of asking their employees to provide them with a list of the ten duties they believe are most important.

This way, they are building the team, and not having to wonder, "Who's on first?"

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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