Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Band of Brothers

"Blessed is the servant who loves his brother as much when he is sick and useless as when he is well and can be of service to him. And blessed is he who loves his brother as well when he is afar off as when he is by his side, and who would say nothing behind his back he might not, in love, say before his face." --- St Francis of Assisi.

There are five boys and one sister in my family. Three of us boys run our own businesses that are in entirely different industries. We have on occasion helped one another when help was needed and it always amazes me how well we work together. We understand each others strengths and weaknesses (though they would say they have no weaknesses--- Ah, the friendly jabs of a brother), and we adjust the task assignments based on our personalities.

The success of our projects depends on the harmony of our work together. Our working together smoothly with great focus and as one unit didn't happen overnight. Nor did it come about because we attended a one-day seminar on team building. No, this type of in-sync workflow happened because of years of developing an understanding of each others personality type, plus years of being taught the importance of hard work by caring parents.

Where one brother may lack a particular personality trait, the other brother picks up the slack and runs with it. If one brother slips, another is there to break the fall, pick up the pieces, or carry him home.

It should work the same in every business. There should be a "Band of Brothers" mentality throughout the company and the good news is that it won't take years to develop that kind of workforce. There are three things that you can start this week to develop a tighter, more harmonious team:

1.) Oh Brother Where Art Thou?- Open the channels of communication between coworkers and allow them to know each other better and learn how they can rely on one another. Shorten communication channels to make this possible. Encourage face-to-face contact whenever possible and drop the texting and emailing unless absolutely necessary.

Share job descriptions of employees working closely together, especially those who are holding another accountable or are accountable to another, so that they can learn how their work processes fit into the scheme of the business.

2.) Brother to Brother- Incorporate a personality test into the hiring process of your business and allow team members to learn who they are as well as who they are working with. Tests such as DISC and Meyers Briggs are good for determining a basis for knowing thyself. They are eye-opening tests that let employees better understand why coworkers act, react, work, and think like they do.

3.) Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?- Finally, challenge team members to seek opportunities for helping a coworker with a task. This is best started using role playing and mock exercises to illustrate the importance of picking up a brother when he (or she) is down. By allowing (empowering) another team member to pick up the slack increases the reliability on that person. Both parties benefit from the action. The helped, because he knows now that he can rely on another and the helper, because he is stretched while at the same time serving another.

They both now know each other through better communication and understanding personalities. The harmonious workflow experienced with my brothers can be duplicated by adopting the above three steps and reinforcing the importance of all three on a regular basis.

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