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Talent Advisory Board: Building Better Teams

May 29, 2024
IndustryWeek's panel of workforce experts discuss effective teambuilding.

The IndustryWeek Talent Advisory Board offers monthly advice on how its members got to where they are in the manufacturing world. If you have a question for the group, please send it to [email protected].

For May, we asked a fundamental question about effective leadership: How do you build and manage teams effectively?

Carl Livesay — General Manager, Mercury Plastics Inc.

This is an excellent question that is not easily answered in the allotted space. You build a team by identifying a deserving individual who you believe has the potential. Much like cultivating a Bonsai tree, you nurture the person, providing essential support while making small adjustments using coaching and eventually mentoring. This can be accomplished with multiple people simultaneously but not as a group. Each person’s needs are very individual, and one size does not fit all. I wrote an article recently that describes how to cultivate leaders. The same steps work with all team members. The difference is when to slow down the training because you never stop. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, but everyone can be a great team member.

Audrey Van de Castle — Director of Digital Transformation, Operations Excellence, Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

Managing a team is a lot of work, but it is rewarding – especially if you enjoy helping others grow their skills. There are a few best practices that I have picked up over the years.

The first is to provide structure for one-on-one meetings with your team. This is particularly crucial with a new team member. Help them prepare for a one-on-one conversation by providing an agenda outline or template for discussion to drive expectations and conversation during the call. The simple agenda and framework that I follow to guide the discussion are: updates since the last one-on-one, key deliverables in the next 30 days, issues and challenges, and decision points 

The second-best practice is to establish team-level KPIs – along with the governance and discipline to manage them. Team-level KPIs help drive clarity and priority for your team, so they know they are all working towards a common goal.  Review the KPIs monthly to give you the opportunity as a leader to identify any issues and help enact any actions to correct them. This also then gives you the data and metrics to take to your leadership to spotlight accomplishments, or to ask for support. When I implemented KPIs with my team, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive because everyone knew exactly what to work on, and if they were on the right track or not.

Finally, be transparent with your team and give them feedback! Don’t wait for an annual performance review to give feedback – it’s too removed to drive behavior change. The best dynamic that you can establish with you team is one of open feedback so that everyone, including yourself, can continuously improve.

Paul Baldassari —Executive Vice President of Worldwide Operations, Flex

Building and developing high-performing teams is all about composition and culture. Having the right skillsets is just as important as nurturing an environment that values diversity and views different perspectives, backgrounds, and abilities as strengths. 

If you have an inclusive team, you’re mostly guiding since they often perform well naturally. On the other hand, if your team has skillset or cultural challenges, you as a leader will spend time and effort to cover address those gaps yourself.

Bill Scilingo — Vice President of Operations, Penn Color, Inc.

Nothing drives business performance more than cross functional alignment and collaboration through teamwork.  Although not rocket science, building, managing and sustaining performance of teams takes careful consideration to ensure success. 

The three main aspects I feel are most important in team development include scope structure, identification of the correct skillsets, and consistent recognition and guidance during the project path. 

  1. Defining the Project Scope: Having a concise project scope sets the stage for all aspects of team formation and success. Most projects fail at this step with a failure to accurately define the deliverables of the project including outputs, timelines, and clear boundaries of what aspects are in and out of scope. This failure often leads to scope creep, missed timelines and diminished results from the team. 
  2. Identifying the Correct Skill Sets: With a detailed business objective, now allows the team sponsor to understand the resource requirements required to meet expectations. This definition provides a template to determine the correct skillset needed for the team (i.e., technical, analytical, statistical, financial, hands-on experience, historical reference, etc.). The team selection process also allows for personal development of team members by either fortifying current skillsets or exposure to unfamiliar techniques and/or areas of the business. Don’t hesitate to add team members who are completely new to the situation, as they often bring a grounded, outside perspective to business challenges. 
  3. Providing Consistent Recognition and Guidance: Once the scope and team have been assembled, it is imperative that the team sponsor have regular check-ins with the team. These check-ins ensure the team is staying on scope, provide guidance regarding any obstacles, and recognize the efforts of the members.

Success in these areas will lead to higher performing and successful teams.

Becky Morgan — President, Fulcrum ConsultingWorks Inc.

First, it is important to realize that every group of people is not a team, regardless of how it may be described. Some are committees, some are departments of similarly skilled people, but few are actually teams.

Next, understand that a common goal is integral to actual team behaviors. Many sports “teams” are not successful because they don’t share a common goal. Some members may care about wins and losses, others about personal statistics, some may be playing for their next contract. Those “teams” are unlikely to have the best win/loss records or win the championship.”

And thirdly, remember that a group of all-stars – the best of the best – also is likely to fail. The willingness to “take one for the team” is an important characteristic of true team success.

With those parameters in place, it is easier to build and manage an effective team. At least it helps you see what the team needs, and how to provide it.

Carlos H. Torres — Head of Industry 4.0 at USA 5G Smart Factory, Ericsson

For me to achieve strategic objectives, it is crucial to think of building a team in three balanced aspects. A team needs to have a mix of complementary skills, be resilient, and must have varying experience levels to allow for career growth opportunities. 

A team with diverse skills enables members to support one another, fill gaps and enhance overall performance. Balancing the strengths of individual members relative to the whole team allows for maximizing the collective team potential. Having backups and cross-trained individuals allows for other team members to step in when needed, making the team adaptable when unexpected challenges arise. Lastly, ensuring there is a balance of experienced members and team members with fresh perspectives fosters growth and ensures continuity of knowledge while providing career growth opportunities.  

Building a team requires continuous evaluation of the three balancing needs and requires leaders to regularly assess team performance and team dynamics by soliciting feedback and being open to adjusting as needed.

Billy Ray Taylor — Founder and CEO, LinkedXL

Building and leading teams effectively has been a deeply emotional and pragmatic journey for me, especially during my early days at Goodyear. Initially, I viewed capability as the catalyst for building a team, focusing solely on skills and expertise while neglecting the equally crucial elements of character and chemistry. This perspective, I soon realized, was fundamentally limited.

After leading and sustaining multiple organizational turnarounds, I’ve learned that the bedrock of a successful team lies in the synergy of character, chemistry, and capability. Character, the core of trust and integrity, lays the foundation for high-performing teams. Reflecting on earlier challenges, I've come to understand that effective team-building is as much about emotional intelligence as it is about technical skills.

Building and managing teams effectively requires a delicate balance of Individual and Team Character, Chemistry, and Capability. It's like crafting a symphony where each instrument plays a crucial role in creating harmony. Let’s delve into the journey of assembling a team, focusing on the three C's: Character, Chemistry, and Capability.

Character is the foundation of any team. It includes integrity, resilience, and a commitment to excellence. Assessing each member's character ensures they align with the team's values and ethos. Character is who we truly are at our core!

Chemistry is the invisible thread that binds team members together, fostering camaraderie and trust through mutual respect for our differences, where everyone feels valued and understood, united in working toward a common purpose to achieve a shared goal. Chemistry is more than just how we get along; it's the deep connection and trust within the team.

Capability refers to the skills and expertise of the team. Aligning these skills with the team’s objectives is essential. Assessing each member’s strengths and weaknesses allows for strategic role allocation, maximizing productivity and innovation. Capability is what we can do—it's the powerful blend of our skills, knowledge, and expertise that enables us to overcome obstacles, create solutions, and achieve our objectives.

The interplay of character, chemistry, and capability lays the foundation for winning! It's how you build a high-performance and vibrant team culture. In essence, this is the key to building and managing successful teams.­­­­­­­­­­­­

About the Author

IW Talent Advisory Board

An expert panel of manufacturing leaders offering advice on how to advance your career.

Beginning a career in any industry is challenging, and many people early in their journeys in manufacturing need advice on how to advance and reach the next milestone. IndustryWeek’s Talent Advisory Board collects manufacturing leaders who rose through the ranks and are happy to share stories and advice on how they got to where they are now. This group includes senior-level people and young leaders who advanced quickly in their organizations. They work for large companies or run their own businesses, representing a wide swathe of careers within manufacturing. 

Every month, we ask the group a new question about their careers or life experiences. If you have a question for the group, please send it to IndustryWeek [email protected].

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