The art of team building

By: John Sollars

Date: 7 November 2012

The art of team building/team peopleIn the early months of a startup situation you don't normally need to worry about team building because everybody is really involved and committed to pushing the business as hard as they can. Over time however, as the number of employees start to grow, then you need to be more focussed on motivation and team building.

Everybody is different, with differing backgrounds, expectations, work ethics and work rates, so a key thing to watch is allowing these differences to work together, but also to make sure that people don't rub each other up the wrong way.

If you read my blog you will know that I try hard not to take life too seriously. I am a great believer in trying to keep a light-hearted atmosphere at work, so here are my personal six top tips for keeping your team motivated and looking forward to coming to work every morning:

Number One: Say thank you

I'm a great believer in thanking people for doing their job, so long as they are doing it to the best of their ability. When you have your head down, concentrating on what you are doing, a pat on the back and a "well done" followed by a "thank you" at the end of the day I think make a real difference.

Number Two: Keep it simple

I'm a sucker for cliches; "keep it simple" and "one small step at a time" are favourites. Make tasks achievable and rewarding by ensuring that you don't give people huge jobs that will take months to complete; break it down into bite-sized chunks.

Number Three: Anticipate trouble

It's my experience that sometimes people get bogged down and can't see the wood for the trees, so either get them to talk to someone else about the problem to give them a fresh perspective, or give them something totally different for a day or two. This gives the subconscious time to think about the problem and very often come up with a solution.

Number Four: Provide a decent place to work

I started my business from home, and have striven to keep a homely atmosphere ever since; we have a banter and we share the chores of making the tea and washing up at the end of the day. I've fitted our work spaces with daylight lighting so that working areas are brightly illuminated and .cheerful; even on a miserable, dark, wet Monday morning, the office is bright, warm and welcoming for everyone when they arrive.

Number Five: Have a bit of fun

I love cooking, so on an ad-hoc basis we'll have a cooking or baking competition. So far we have produced soup (the chocolate soup was memorable!), curry, cake (don't ask about the sugar cake!), sweet pie and chilli. There is another one coming up, but they won't let me dictate the theme this time. And for the record - I have yet to win one of the competitions, even though my entries are the best! And I do bear a grudge!

Number Six: Celebrate success

When we achieve something extraordinary in a month I'll invite everybody out for a curry at our favourite Indian restaurant. [Ed: Wish I lived near you.]

Above all, what I aim to achieve is to make my team feel appreciated and valued and so far it has worked well for me in my growing business as I don't lose staff because they are dissatisfied, but rather because they move on to roles that I can't offer. And people who started nine years ago are still with me; they are fulfilled and have developed way beyond their own expectations in that time.

John Sollars is MD of printer ink retailer

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