We hear the term all the time. Contractors no longer have a “staff,” they have a “team.” The teams have been taught systems and methodologies that help them coordinate cleaning activities. They share ideas, welcome suggestions and contributions, and help ensure every member of the team feels valued and important.  

The result is that most cleaning tasks are performed faster and more effectively, there is much more collaboration than before teams were established, and the cleaning performed more than meets customer expectations and satisfaction.

However, the unity of the team can be stressed when team members meet with company leaders. Typically, this is a situation in which the leader talks, and the team listens. In some cases, the workers feel they are taking orders, and taking orders does not always foster a team atmosphere, or at least, not a positive team atmosphere.

To turn this around, company leaders need to make changes to their leadership approach. In this post I present some practical steps leaders can take to ensure they are building a strong team.

Don’t Talk, Listen

Listening involves giving others a chance to speak first. It may start with questions from the company leader, but from there, the leadership should let the conversation flow. The goal is to allow everyone a chance to discuss what is on their mind. Once this is finished, company leaders can bring up the issues they want to present. However, to ensure they are not just giving orders, company leaders must follow this up with more discussion. Many times, clarification is requested or team members want to know the “whys” behind the items being discussed. Leaving plenty of time for discussion fosters team collaboration.

Be Curious

We need to take listening one step further. Along with listening to what team members have to say, team leaders must also be curious. This requires leaders to ask questions as issues are discussed and presented. Asking thoughtful questions helps leaders get a better grasp on what’s on the minds of their workers and makes the workers feel more important and involved in the discussion.  Further, have you ever wondered why one worker or one team never gets complaints?  Find out what they are doing so well so that you can share it with the rest of your employees.

Stay Open-Minded

When I took over as the head of cleaning and maintenance at the Disney Studios, we had 42 different cleaning products that could be used at any time by our 96 custodial workers. I wanted to reduce that to one product for every cleaning duty:

  1. One air freshener
  2. One glass cleaner
  3. One all-purpose cleaner
  4. One furniture polish
  5. One disinfectant

To go from 42 different cleaning products to just five, I stayed open minded. I let the staff determine which products they liked by polling them. We then disregarded the rest.  Further, we had one person responsible for removing those we don’t want and making sure they never snuck back in.  One of the big benefits of this transition is that it saved us a lot of money, enough to purchase new equipment to help improve worker safety and productivity.

The bottom line is this: Employees feel more comfortable when company leaders demonstrate they are open to their ideas and are curious about what they have to say. When leaders are willing to make changes based on what their staff requests, this shows respect for workers, and showing respect is crucial in building strong teams.

Ron Segura helps cleaning contractors grow their businesses. He has over 45 years of experience in all segments of the professional cleaning industry including ten years as Manager of Janitorial Operations for Walt Disney Pictures and Television. To contact him, call 650-315-8933.