Tips Maintenance Team Building - Maintenance Cruz
Who is the I in the Team?
I have been writing mostly about the tangibles in the maintenance shop so now I thought I would start to address the not so obvious items. The best maintenance program in the world can easily become the most difficult to manage if the people are not a cohesive team.
People are a misnomer at best and there really is no way to tell at hiring time if your newest addition will work in or work out. There are a slew of psychological tests that HR can administer during the hiring process that may weed out some bad ones, but may also weed out some good ones. Hiring is and probably always will be a gamble, but early detection and correction is key to a team environment.
When the new wears off (what we call the honeymoon) and a new employee's real personality starts to surface, close scrutiny needs to be used. Listen to your long time employees and if the have negative things to say about a new hire, then do a thorough and covert investigation of the claims. It is easy for managers to disregard their teams complaints because of the difficulty and expense of hiring new people, not to mention the loss of face for having recommended a new hire that you now want to fire.
I have rarely encountered a manager that did not want to give a tech a fair chance, but I have met many that could not admit that a tech needed to go. I had a circumstance where a tech had really good credentials, but the actual performance was a completely different story. Everyone on the team was complaining that the tech was not pulling his weight and doing very poor work. The tech's work was constantly being redone by the other techs, but he just kept getting praise and more credibility with the management staff. The tech had one interest in mind and that was to talk his way to the top and use underhanded tactics to further his career. The technicians and operators could all see this plainly, but the management staff turned a blind eye or were just plain brainwashed.
The continued ignorance on the part of the management staff drove the situation to critical point and they had a mass mutiny on their hands. This situation should have never gotten to this stage and the claims should have been investigated as they were all true. Instead the company lost all of their top notch techs who were actually doing the work. They were left with the tech everyone had tried to warn them about and he immediately failed miserably, he had no clue what he was doing. It was really sad because the company had a really good team built up that was only getting better with time.
This is a situation that should have been avoided and corrected. Some simple investigation of the claims would have revealed the truth and the lies. I'm not saying that a team should be allowed to railroad another team member ,but if their claims are truthful then there is no discrimination and action must be taken. Investigate the claims, but also everyone else to insure fairness. If I find the claims to be true, I waste little time in taking action and do everything to preserve my team.
Not to be overlooked, managers also get used by their long time employees. Older employees, can and do, use their relationship to their advantage. An adage applies here, "Don't get used like a hammer". A hammer is the least respected tool, pick it up, hit something, shape something the way you want it, then toss it aside. This is what some employees do with their managers, complain, get another in trouble, promote themselves as superior, then toss the manager aside until next use. Do not, ever, let any of your people use you like this, establish that this will be a big career mistake if they try it. If you don't lay down the law then your people will decide for themselves how far they can go. So, claims if true, action is to be taken. So, with false claims, action will be taken. This covers both sides of the coin at the same time, your people will resist the urge to complain out of dislike and reserve for true information.
I worked overseas and the personnel were very cliquey about people from outside their regional territories, some old feuds that have never died. I had to remove certain personnel from the team and I asked another manager about this issue. The other manager informed me that these are deep seated hatreds that have brewed for a long time between these varied groups. I meet with my team to set my position in stone, if the man can do and does the job he stays without persecution from anyone. Any ploy to try to remove someone who was doing their job based on hatred would be reversed and the instigator would be in the unemployment line. This worked well and ended the hate induced claims and the real story came to light of who really was doing their job and who wasn't. I never received another frivolous report again only legitimate ones.
I have also witnessed the other side of this coin where a manager does not want to hear anything about other employees This approach is a mistake in my view as you are telling your people that they must put up with anyone that is hired. There are plenty of people out there that somehow keep their jobs and should be let go. These types of workers bring your team down and do nothing but cause problems. The only way you can weed them out is to listen, so you can not shut your door and ignore.
This is a hard problem any way you slice it and one that gets pushed off by a lot of managers. Nobody wants to do the dirty work or listen to complaints about other people. That is the ugly truth about being in management and worst part of the job, by far. The path of least resistance always looks better than having to confront personnel about complaints leveled against them, that is why you must be absolutely sure of your facts.
For the most part, teams tend to work out most of their problems by themselves and most crews work together regardless of minor complaints. It is when the complaints are coming in from every direction that a serious investigation should take place right away because these people probably are not lying. On that note, lying to me as your manager is the one that will get you headed out the door, I don't need people that lie to me. I make this rule 1 and everyone is clear on this, especially after the first liar is fired. Sometimes you have to shoot a hostage to get the others back in line. Its harsh but true.
Preaching teamwork does not work on its own and maintenance is required to keep a team together. Your team needs to know that you protect them and sincerely want a strong team, you lose that if you ignore them. Team members respect a strong leader who is his own man, the minute you allow your team to make up your mind for you, you will lose respect. Someone will see that you have been manipulated showing a serious weakness. At another time, a different team member witnesses the same weakness, loss of more respect, eventually everyone will think that you are easily manipulated and weak. I'm not saying that you need to act like king on high, but always make your people know that you will collect facts and make a final decision. This shows you are in control and also that you will know the real facts when you are done.