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Let’s Get to Work

Joseph Fearn

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It should go without saying that accomplishing work is why our teams have jobs. It should also go without saying that while at work we should all be working. In this post some of the atmospheric factors that may encourage more work will be discussed. I say some because improving the desire to work is not cookie cutter. Every team is unique and comes with their own dynamics, motivations and deterrents for work. And, even when everything seems to be coming together, it is challenging to maintain the will to work. The following thoughts are not a guarantee, nor a one off. They are lessons I have learned over years of being a team member, manager and most importantly (IMHO) a front line, working supervisor.

Lead by Example
Yes, I know “lead by example” is overused, ill defined, and assumes any team members are predisposed to following some example. At the same time, it is the bedrock stipulation for effective team dynamics. Your team simply will not consistently listen to, or follow you if they do not believe in you. When you demonstrate that you are yoked by, and work under, the same conditions they work under, they see you also as an ally, not as only a boss. I am in no way saying that you should be the same as them. As the boss you have the responsibility (I do not like saying 'authority', I try to earn it) and hopefully the experience/knowledge to determine the work methods, scheduling, assignments, etc. Your team needs to see the evidence of your capability, rather than only hear about it, EVERYDAY. Our teams have finely tuned BS meters, and can sniff out hypocrisy a mile away. 

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Lead by example or you may find yourself and your message discarded.

Expect the Best and Show Your Passion
Low expectations will lead to low execution. If my team (of course including me) set our sights low, then that is inevitably where we will end up. Low expectations/low execution will never lead to success. The problem is that high expectations/high execution is demanding on a number of fronts and therefore requires high effort/high commitment. What I have found is my team will seek, by and large, to deliver whatever valid expectation is set to them. My job is to use instruction, training, support and high expectations to convey an achievable target for them. But this is only the procedural part of the puzzle. Being passionate about high standards is the other part. Why should they want to execute high quality work/production? Because I honestly believe most people want to be the best they can be. Emphatically setting high standards, being consistent in evaluating work, and celebrating achievement will usually improve results.

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High expectation raises high execution which decreases complacency

Work With Your Teams Strengths
Every person on your team has strengths and weaknesses. Soft strengths include persistence, self-motivation, patience, concern for others, willingness to share thoughts, tolerance, etc. Hard skills can be physical dexterity/endurance, mechanical know how, design skills, horticultural knowledge, hands on job experience, etc. Of course there are corresponding weaknesses but I am not nearly as interested in them. Why? Because playing to a team member’s strengths makes much better sense. I recently read that most organizations want well rounded people. This makes some sense. However, trying to instill performance traits, or even skills that are hard for team members to grasp is wasting effort. If someone clearly enjoys a certain aspect of work, or has an aptitude for that work, it is a performance multiplier to have them perform that work as often as can be.

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Team identity is a team strength created and nurtured at work. Utilizing team strength maximizes potential.

Be Patient and Never Quit
Sometimes when I interact with my team, we focus on things we should improve on. This is perfectly reasonable and is an authentic attempt at dynamic development. But narrow focus can sometimes obscure the big picture of team performance. By definition, my team (and yours) is successful because we are currently employed and performing the work necessary to maintain said employment. Truth be told, you are surely more successful than just meriting continued employment. Out team has improved our campus along many important organizational/horticultural metrics over the years. We constantly continue the pursuit for performance improvement. Allowing yourself patience and encouraging a sense of accomplishment to carry on, bolsters inevitable success. We must not be not be defeated by temporary setbacks. The only way this journey falters is to quit trying. Do not quit.

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Measuring team success in snapshots is like judging all trees by a sapling.

Mindset Versus Skillset
There are many other forces at work that must be present to help improve your team’s ability to do your job. OJT, technical training, shared experience, mentoring programs, an effective review program, bonuses/raises, appropriate equipment, and even a realistic policy for disciplinary action, etc. is still a short listing. All should blend to support highly effective work teams. But that all fails if the mentality of the team is wrong. High execution of our jobs occurs when we want high execution to occur. That desire for high execution is a mindset, not a skillset. This is a crucial distinction that can be easily confused. The desire, the fire for high performance must be nurtured and replenished constantly and the above considerations can help. Don’t quit.
 



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