Strength of Character

The managing director of The Safety Letterbox Company was recently invited to give her thoughts on what creates a great working environment for a happy and productive team.
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A company needs a strong vision and a steady leader to drive it, but very little can be achieved without a committed, train and empowered team, and for me that’s all about the character of the team member.
Other things can be taught, but it’s what drives employees that counts. Out company is based in South Wales and is the UK’s leading manufacturer of mail and parcel boxes providing a solution for mail requirements for projects both big and small. You never know the true strengths of a person until they are working with you. For some, the CV is not a reflection of the person themselves but instead it is a skills list, often giving an indication of what this person has been taught but also what they have gained from valuable experience over time. When interviewing, it’s the CV that often gets them there, although how it came in makes a difference. Was it proactively dropped in, because they wanted to work for your company, or were they put forward, as their profile simply matched?
After meeting a potential candidate you then have to strip it back and get to know the real person, layering on top the skills, strengths and experience they may have. It is about how you will feel seeing this person in your team daily and how much they encourage you to motivate them. Once on board you can then establish their strong and weak points, and it’s at this stage that you refer back to their CV to remind yourself of how they sold themselves and compare it to the person now taking a valuable place in your team. As the team grows, so hopefully your business should grow, and as a result, personal accountabilities and responsibilities show grow allowing staff to raise their profile and self-motivate.
The old adage of a structured review process and open communication enables this to progress and for individuals to see how they form part of the bigger picture. Open communication, an opportunity to heard about what involves them and the chance to speak out is key to establishing a strong team. During the recession of 2008 – 2013 I had to deliver bad news to my team. It was news that meant reduction in hours, redundancies and changes to working patterns in an attempt to hold the business together. Staff were informed throughout the whole process which gave them the opportunity to be involved in some decisions so they could see the plan, and so they could see what we were doing as a business for the security of the company and also their future.
Fortunately, we invested in them during those quieter times which made them more valuable to us a company and also to any future employer. Multi-skilling was also critical to ensure we had maximum flexibility and the team were versatile and well-trained, resulting in us plugging bottle necks with additional resource as required without any additional hours. We came out of recession and everything that we had done with the team resulted in us emerging even stronger than before. I’m not saying that I haven’t been ruthless in creating strong teams, those that are pulling in a different direction or not pulling at all, do not stay within the team. It’s not fair on the rest of the team otherwise.
Now when I create the business plan and the strategy, I involved the whole team, so that we all understand where we are going, how we are going to get there and how long it’s likely to take. Having a successful company and having a team that wants to work with you is all about treating other as you would want to be treated yourself, and ultimately taking responsibility of that. If you ask most of the staff who work with me how long they have been at the company for, you will find many of them have been at the company for years and they are loyal to us. Staff know how important re-skilling and upskilling is, and they know if we were to go through another recession they will be looked after.
Alison Orrells
Managing Director
The Safety Letterbox Company