Building Solid Teams on the Job


It’s helpful for managers to grasp the fundamentals of psychology, both for individuals and groups. One principle I’m going to focus on here is the tendency people have to form cliques, and to define in-groups and out-groups.

At work, those in-groups often gel around shared job roles. That’s good, so far as it goes. Where it becomes an issue is when the in-group bonding and inclusion develops a sense of exclusion of other cliques. We’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of “no one over there knows what they’re doing!”

Everyone may have their own tasks, and each team has its own responsibilities, but everyone is on the same side.
It’s essential that everyone trusts everyone else to pull their weight. The installers have to trust the salespeople and designers, and vice versa (although in my experience it’s usually the seasoned installers who are the ones needing to be taught to trust salespeople).

In order to avoid the kind of bickering that hampers productivity building, intra-team trust is essential.

When anyone says “team-building,” everyone’s eyes roll back into their heads, and for good reason. If there’s been any upside at all to the pandemic of the past year, it’s that no one has been sent to a hotel conference room by their HR department and made to do trust fall exercises.

No, the best way to build trust among your teams isn’t feel-good exercises: It’s on the job.

If you want your team members to trust and respect one another, the best way is to make sure they fully understand what everyone else does. More than a few AV pro firms I’ve known maintained a new hire policy that all new employees, no matter what their role or prior experience, have to spend their first three months in the field as an
installer’s assistant, what I used to self-deprecatingly refer to myself as a “Wire Monkey, Third Class.”

That way, new installers begin their role having the fundamentals of the firm’s best practices taught to them from senior installers, and new salespeople and designers begin with a much better understanding of what their installers actually do.

Another strategy that’s not onerous to implement is job ride-alongs. As an exercise in cross-training, some firms schedule days where team members job shadow each other — whether its salespeople following installers, programmers, project managers or some other combination.

Honestly, in my opinion, it wouldn’t hurt for front office personnel like designers and salespeople (I know it sounds like I bag on salespeople a lot, and maybe I do — because sometimes we deserve it) to spend some time with the purchasers or the accounts payable/receivable people.

The principals of firms that have done this tell me there’s a substantial improvement in inter-team harmony and reduction in petty squabbling. When people have a clear understanding of what other team members do all day, and when they’ve seen first hand how good they are at it, that goes a long way to fostering trust and a proper team