Get the Most From Your Team
with Situational Leadership
women in plastics
by Tatia Wood

ave you noticed that in the last several years — and certainly after the pandemic — companies must do more with less? Businesses are constantly challenged to remove cost to win in an increasingly competitive market. Of course, they must do this without negatively impacting the bottom line or customer service. This feat can be achieved by improving processes, upgrading equipment and/or using resources more efficiently. The most critical resource that can make the biggest impact is people. As a leader, it is imperative that you do everything in your power to get the most out of your team.

Start with a needs assessment
I encourage new managers to define what their needs are based on their current business, plans for future growth and the working environment they want to create. This should be done without any specific people in mind, only the roles needed to support initiatives and the mindset/attitude they want on their team. Once they have the roles clearly defined, they should assess their current team. This works best if you know your team, which means knowing more than what their skillset is. Do you know what is important to each individual? What drives or motivates them? What their careers goals and expectations are? What amount of effort they are willing to put in? If you do not know your team, it will be difficult to make an accurate assessment. This process involves outlining their current skill set as well as future capacity. At this point, the managers can match their team to their needs and identify any gaps.
Considerations for hiring
If there are positions that need to be filled, hiring the right person as you build your team is very important. Again, this goes beyond skill set as this exercise includes personality traits, work ethic, willingness to learn, demeanor as well as future expectations. Do you need someone with runway? Have you identified what “fits” with the team/environment they are trying to create? It is critical to take your time when looking to fill any role. Do not be tempted to compromise because you need someone immediately. Every new hire is an opportunity to build a winning team and well worth the wait to find the right person.
Set expectations and celebrate wins
Once you have your team in place, make sure you set clear expectations and have a development plan for each individual that is tailored to their specific needs/gaps. Establish milestones in addition to the end goal and celebrate the wins as your team progresses. I like to give small rewards that are tailored to each individual as they reach their goals. For example, some employees like extra time with their family, so I will give them a paid Friday afternoon off if they reach their goal. Others would like to take their significant other out, so a gift card to their favorite restaurant is a fitting reward. You can have several options to choose from when they reach their milestones. Make sure the rewards are done during your team meetings as this tends to create a healthy competition. Consistent one-on-one meetings to review progress is important. A one-and-done approach is not going to work, because most people need regular feedback about how they are doing.
Transparency is key

So far, I have been talking about the fun stuff. My favorite part of being a leader is watching people grow not only in their career but also personally. There is another side that is not as easy, but it is one of the most important things you can do for someone. Sometimes, you have to accept that a person is not a good fit and you are unable to get them there. The best thing you can do for them is to be transparent, give specific examples and be kind. If you have to let them go, it should not be a surprise to them and, believe it or not, some will thank you. The way you handle these tough scenarios will impact your team and the level of trust they have in you as a leader.

Encourage feedback
The way you treat everyone is critical to building a team that trusts you and will run through walls for you because they know you will do the same for them. Although it is the leader’s job to give direction and set expectations, it is also their job to be open to feedback, both on direction and things they may be doing that are negatively impacting the team. You want your team to be able to talk to and be open with you or you will lose critical insight into what is going on as well the trust of the team.
Trust and empowerment
You should periodically evaluate where you and your team are in relation to your goals and adjust accordingly. If you need to adjust, make sure the direction is clear and you explain the “why” in a way the team understands. There will be times when you will need to make adjustments to your plan, but you could lose your team if they don’t understand the reasoning behind the change. I am not saying you have to explain every detail, but they should feel like they are included in the process. This will create an environment of trust and empowerment and a team that is invested in the result. An empowered team is happy to be at work, own the results and take it personally if something doesn’t go well. This team will do everything they can to make it right for the customer. That is what we are all trying to achieve and what will separate you from the competition.
Tatia Wood is the regional director — West for Polymershapes. For more information, contact Polymershapes at 10130 Perimeter Parkway, Suite 500, Charlotte, NC 28216-2442 USA; phone (704) 948-5000 or (866) 437-7427, fax (704) 948-5082, info@polymershapes.com or www.polymershapes.com.