focus on » Team Building Especially for school nutrition managers, assistant managers and employees #SquadGoals Your Favorite Team Building Lessons As manager, you’re the head cheerleader of your school nutrition staff. We reached out to a few head cheerleader-managers from around the country to learn their tried-and-true team building tips. Here is what we discovered: RESOLVE CONFLICT CALMLY. Whether it’s a one-off conflict or a perpetual “bad apple,” Charlotte Bailey, foodservice manager at Tenoroc High School, Polk County (Fla.) Public Schools, says a calm, one-on-one sit-down is the best first step—but only when you are not all worked up by the situation. “Don’t get on their level; bring them down to yours, which is calm. Sometimes they just need to talk. Be calm, and tell it like it is—a bad attitude can disrupt the whole kitchen. Be kind, let them know what’s expected and that they have to get the job done.” ENCOURAGE OWNERSHIP AND PRIDE IN YOUR PROGRAM. When her staff feels heard, they feel invested, says Cory Talbott, RD, foodservice manager at Glen Burnie High School, Anne Arundel County (Md.) Public Schools. “I try to find the positive in someone’s performance and point that out, and listen to and consider their suggestions and critiques. And I always, always say ‘thank you,’ because nobody works harder than cafeteria workers!” TRY A TEAM BUILDING EXERCISE! Nicole Foskey, MS, NDTR, CLC, is a nutrition supervisor with Head Start/Early Head Start at The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, and she says team building exercises are most beneficial when they provide an opportunity for people to get to know one another. “Complete a short-but-fun personality test that reflects work style, and review the possible outcomes as a group. Learning more about each other can help different personalities understand one another better and may end up having a positive impact on how two people interact.” Four Teamwork Myths & Facts MYTH: In order to be successful, everyone on your team must get along. FACT: Everyone on your team must be kind and respectful, but they don’t all have to be best friends. A diverse team may experience conflict, but conflict can drive creative thinking. This is where team building exercises have value—identifying each member’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, assigning roles accordingly will help you create a strong team. MYTH: A unanimous decision is required to move forward. FACT: Taking everyone’s opinions into account is important, but holding out for 100% agreement on every decision isn’t constructive or productive—or realistic! MYTH: As a manager, you are tasked with leading your team and creating cohesion. FACT: As the head of your staff, it is not your responsibility to micro-manage everyone into becoming a cohesive team. Encourage team members to develop ownership in outcomes, and to function as a team even when you are not present. MYTH: There’s no “I” in team! FACT: One of the most important aspects of being on a team is personal development of both teamwork and leadership skills. Make sure each member of your team knows that you are dedicated to helping the team meet its goals, while also providing them with a long-term professional development opportunity. WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE Sometimes, all it takes is a poor choice of words for conflict to arise. Careful, clear, respectful communication should always be your goal. Here are a few ways to use words to your advantage, and become a more effective communicator and leader. Encourage your employees to adopt the same clear and respectful language in the workplace. Avoid swearing, vulgarity, stereotypes and derogatory comments: Speak with respect for each individual, and avoid broad generalizations in your language. This creates a culture of trust among the whole staff. Strive for solution-oriented language: Develop a glossary of words and phrases that will help you communicate positively with employees who need to improve performance or attitude. By offering up options, ideas, suggestions and recommendations, your employees will be more likely to hear, accept and integrate your constructive criticism into their work performance. Avoid accusatory language and phrasing: Instead of launching into accusatory language that lays blame (“You messed this up,” “You shouldn’t have accepted that delivery,” “Why didn’t you follow the proper steps?!”), focus on addressing the underlying problem. Take a moment to consider your phrasing. (“I noticed that the grant application has some typos. May I help by proofreading it for you?” “Let’s you and I take some time after the lunch service to review certain procedures to make sure there’s no misunderstanding.”) Just a few moments to reframe your comment in a constructive manner can help you avoid further conflict. Fun Rewards for Excellence in Teamwork • Make time for hand-written thank you notes for a job well done. • Create internal awards/certificates of achievement in key areas (participation, marketing, creative food presentation, etc.). • Recognizing your employee’s or team’s efforts on social media will make them feel special, and it will also help you promote all of the wonderful things going on in your school nutrition program. • Small financial incentives such as gift cards are a simple and relatively inexpensive way to reward individual and group achievements. • Nominate top team members for an ANC First Timer Award! This award helps SNA members who have never attended a national conference to offset travel expenses for their first Annual National Conference. Team Building at Your Fingertips Team building is an ongoing process, so make it an ongoing priority. Keep the following links handy and refer to the experts for effective team building and conflict management strategies and training tips: • School Nutrition Association www.schoolnutrition.org/Webinars www.schoolnutrition.org/Meetings/PresentationsLibrary • Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) www.nfsmi.org • USDA Food & Nutrition Service NSLP Professional Standards http://professionalstandards.nal.usda.gov Donna Myers SNA School Nutrition Employee/Manager Representative The Secrets of Strong, Successful Teams I imagine that most of you, like me, have been involved in various team building activities over the years. Many of these started at home, playing different games and sports with family and friends. Most of us want to win at these, right? We learn quickly that if we do not work together as a team, we will not succeed in our goal. The same goes for the goals we set for our workplace teams. We will never be able to achieve these without working together. Team building activities can engage a group of people and unite them toward a common purpose. Think about your experiences as a member or leader of positive and engaged teams. Maybe it was your high school basketball squad or the planning committee of a local chapter fundraiser event. When everyone is united in achieving a shared goal, you can almost feel the energy that results! Strong teams get things done. One secret to leading—and participating in—a successful, strong team is knowing that all members count. Each person can bring helpful opinions, knowledge, values, past work experience, education, life experiences and different skills. But they can’t bring these things if they don’t feel empowered to do so. What activities can you try as a manager and a coworker so that everyone on the team feels empowered? Be clear in your communication. Make sure everyone knows that they are valued members of the team—and as such, they have responsibilities, too. There should be no confusion about expectations. Work together on setting goals. This helps each team member to feel an investment in achieving the result. Encourage team members to set their own goals, too, so that they take responsibility for their work and career development. Create and nurture an environment that rewards positivity, good efforts and teamwork. Sarah Ruddy, one of my fellow managers at Osceola County (Fla.) School District, shared a secret to her own team building success with me. She prioritizes positivity—even if she needs to correct someone’s action or behavior. She always remembers to follow up with positive encouragement. She asks her staff to do the same—what a great way to pay it forward! Direct From a Director SPENCER TAYLOR, MS, RDN, LDN, is executive director of nutrition services in Metro Nashville Public Schools, with 17 years of school nutrition experience under his belt. He shared his best practices for creating strong managers who, in turn, create strong teams: THE TRAITS I LOOK FOR IN A MANAGER ARE … “Technical competence and a general knowledge of all aspects of the job. They also have to have a willingness to learn and accept constructive criticism. As leaders, they have to have the ability—and desire—to develop others on their staff.” WHEN IT COMES TO MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY ON TEAM BUILDING IN THE WORKPLACE … “I feel that everybody in the department plays a vital role. No position is more important; responsibilities determine how important a role is, but there is inherent value in every position, at every level. If individual employees don’t realize they are valued, there is a disconnect, so show them the importance of their work in accomplishing positive things within the organization.” REWARDING ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE WORKPLACE IS IMPORTANT, SO WE … “Identify folks and praise them for their efforts. It may even be something outside of work, or someone who went out of their way for a student, or listened patiently to a concerned parent. Those types of recognition come in lots of different packages, but recognizing staff efforts for their accomplishments in front of their peers is the best way to show recognition. One thing I try to do when I go out into schools and interact with staff is to tell people how much I appreciate what they do. The contributions we get from all levels has created this successful environment for us, and I do not take that for granted.” 5 HABITS of an Effective Manager 1) Set measurable goals and celebrate: Identify milestones, set measurable goals for your staff—and celebrate when they are reached! Whether you’re trying to increase participation or launch a new program, create an atmosphere of achievement by rewarding your team for a job well done. 2) Hold yourself to the same standard: Model the behavior you expect from your team. When you lead by example, you create trust. Remember, a strong team must have trust. 3) Clear communication: Being a good communicator means delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. Know your audience and craft your communication technique accordingly. 4) Cultivate leadership: Challenge employees to grow and succeed in new ways by pushing them outside of their comfort zone. Remember to empower and encourage, rather than bully or intimidate. 5) Care—and show it: When your team feels like you’re invested in who they are and what they are doing, they will feel invested in the team. It almost sounds too simple, but it’s true.
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