Ten ways manufacturing managers can build better teams

What makes an effective team?

Extensive research has been conducted over many decades to identify the management practices that produce the most effective teams. The findings from that research can be distilled into key behaviors that can make you a better manager and improve the effectiveness of your team.

1. Get to know each employee as a person. Take a genuine interest in how they are doing. Ask employees about their goals and how you can help them achieve those goals. Spend at least a half hour each month one-on-one with each employee. Ask what is going well and give them a chance to brag. Ask about their challenges and what they need from you.

2. Set S.M.A.R.T. performance objectives jointly with employees. In other words, objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Revise the objectives as needed. Make sure employees understand them the same way you do. Measure performance against the objectives, and provide feedback on an ongoing basis.

3. Give corrective feedback as soon as the need arises. Don’t wait until the annual performance review to try to correct poor performance. There should be no surprises at performance appraisal time. And make all performance appraisals about improvement, not blame.

4. Give employees projects that they find interesting and challenging when possible. Provide training and development opportunities, and encourage employees to make time for them.

5. Share information with employees as soon and as fully as you can. Work to remove obstacles and secure resources employees need to do their jobs well. A major part of your job should be empowering them to do theirs.

6. Give employees as much freedom as possible to decide how to carry out their assigned tasks. If they ask you how to do something, turn the question around on them. Ask them how they would complete the task without you. This strategy develops critical thinking skills and encourages employees to solve the problem on their own.

7. Recognize, praise and reward good work often in different ways – big and small. In meetings, model and reinforce active participation, open discussion and mutual support. Show respect for peoples’ differences, demonstrate active listening, and strive to reach decisions by consensus whenever possible.

8. Don’t ignore conflicts between team members. Encourage them to work it out themselves, but be ready to step in with coaching as needed.

9. Accommodate employees’ work/life balance as much as possible. Surveys consistently show that work/life balance ranks as high as, or higher than, salary and benefits in determining employees’ job satisfaction. Allow employees to adjust their schedules to attend children’s activities, doctor appointments, etc. You will have higher morale and lower turnover to the extent you succeed at this balancing act.

10. Ask employees on a regular basis how you could improve as a manager. We all need feedback about how we are doing. Your employees hold key information that you need to hear, so ask. And understand your impact as a role model. People look to leaders for direction, not only in concrete matters but also in matters of judgment, character and style.


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