When you think of a great team, what comes to mind? I imagine a college rowing crew at sunrise, gliding effortlessly across the smooth water with everyone in sync, pulling their oars toward a common goal. Unfortunately, in work life, the water is often shark-infested. Some people are pulling harder than others; some are outright coasting. And right above your head is a sign that reads, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”
At times, it can difficult to build and lead a successful self-storage management team. It’s just as difficult to be part of one. However, with the following five key strategies, you can help your staff overcome the turmoil and glide smoothly toward success.
See Their True Colors
There are hundreds of personality tests available in the marketplace today. You’ve probably taken one at some point. Other than being flat-out fun, they provide insight to people’s characters. For the workplace, I recommend the Hartman Institute Color Code Personality Assessment. You can find it online and in the book, “The Color Code,” by Taylor Hartman.
What I like about this test is it breaks your personality traits into four colors. Each color defines a person’s strengths, weakness and work behavior. For example, I’m a red/yellow. That means I’m goal- and task-orientated, and I like to have fun. So, a good way to motivate me would be to help me find success in accomplishing my goals. This is true!
Not only does the color-code test provide insight to your personality, it helps you know how to work and communicate with people from other color categories. This information is extremely valuable and can be an entertaining, team-building exercise. Everyone gets a laugh and says, “Oh, that’s so you.” It’s a great chance to share a more vulnerable side of yourself. That’s OK because everyone else’s weaknesses are also being revealed.
Two years ago, I purchased a home. When I first looked at it, I loved it. Others saw it as a catastrophe. There were holes in the walls, doors were kicked in, it smelled like death and gym socks, and the former residents had used the living room to repair motorcycles. Everyone thought I was insane for wanting to buy it. My realtor said, “I’m glad you see the vision because I don’t.”
I had to work hard to get people to “buy into” my vision of the house. After a lot of blood, sweat, and swearing, I turned it around. Now that the project is finished, it’s easy to see the dream. Before the work was done, however, it was nearly impossible.
You need to get your team to buy into what you want to accomplish for the company. You don’t do this by showing them everything that needs to be done all at once. You break it up into “rooms,” and then into tasks. You begin by delegating. As your staff completes various tasks, they begin to have a sense of ownership in what they’ve accomplished.
As your team develops, give them more responsibility, and their buy-in will grow. As they become more committed, help sharpen their skills to become even more effective in what they do. Soon they’ll be the ones helping others buy into your vision because they’ll see what you see.
Keep It Clear
If your company’s organizational chart looks like the art my 3-year-old puts on the fridge, it’s time to have a talk. Clearly defined roles are essential to running a well-established team.
Nothing will bring staff down like not understanding the responsibilities of each team member. Not only will having clear roles help your team, it will help you hold them accountable. How can you hold employees answerable for certain tasks if they don’t have a standard against which to be held? A valuable exercise would be to ask employees how they see their responsibilities. Compare that information to your own summary. I imagine there will be some discrepancy, which means an opportunity for coaching and mentoring.
Every staff member needs to have a title. Make them feel important. You might have been CEO at the last six companies you worked for and it’s just a title to you. For someone else, though, that title might be extremely important, so don’t diminish it.
Meetings are important. They’re an opportunity to teach and guide your staff. More important, they allow time to talk about issues and ideas as well as frustrations they might have. To hold successful meetings:
- Foster a feeling of respect and an atmosphere of open communication.
- Understand that sharing stories from the trenches, laughing and socializing creates camaraderie.
- Come prepared and don’t waste people’s time.
Meetings can be done in creative, productive ways. They don’t have to be in a conference room. Try to mix things up. Go for a walking meeting, have lunch, do a conference call, or try a video call in Google Hangouts.
Communication is easy yet also very complex. It encompasses everything from verbal exchanges to e-mails to non-verbals, such as a “thumbs up” or “high five.” To lead a successful team, you need to communicate with authority so they take you seriously, respect you, and trust that you have their best welfare in mind.
When you communicate with members of your team or even work superiors, always choose to be the bigger person. No matter how good it might feel to yell, punish or be passive-aggressive, don’t do it. It can sometimes be extremely difficult—believe me, I understand the struggle. But how can you expect your team to behave in a certain manner if you don’t do so yourself?
Clear communication is the key to a strong team, but leaders sometimes avoid giving concise instructions to walk a fine line between being strict or laid back. Their directives can sometime come across as optional. For example, “Jamy, when you get some time today, can you do a lock check?” This comes across as a suggestion with little priority. Instead try, “Jamy, I need you to get a lock check done by 2 p.m. today.” Now the communication is clear and she can be held accountable to the assignment.
These five strategies will facilitate your self-storage team-building. Not all staffs are going to be friendly. Your employees may not get along or even like each other. However, when teamwork and leadership are done right, that’s all that matters. The focus is shifted because everyone is pulling on their oars, and that creates a fulfilling and meaningful purpose.
Rick Beal is the district manager and part owner of Cubes Self Storage in Salt Lake City. He discovered his passion for the self-storage industry many years ago. Since then, his goal has been to help operators embrace new and innovative ideas. His approach to constant industry changes are based on a practical “rubber hits the road” application. His professional motto is “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” He can be reached at [email protected].