The “Team Approach”…a popular trend in industry today. The philosophy is to pull a group of employees together to work on projects, sharing the load, and empowering them in order to solve problems or perpetuate processes. Sounds simple, but throwing people into a “group” does not make a team. A team is not a “soup” where you throw odds and ends together and get a satisfying result.

Teaming is more like a precise recipe and it just won’t come out right if it’s not put T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R correctly. What are the basic ingredients of a team?


When you create a “safety team,” especially when the membership is primarily hourly employees, they’ll need to be trained in meeting dynamics and procedures. Typically, hourly employees have very little exposure to how a meeting should be run. Some basic guidelines to running a meeting include:

• Appoint people to positions — Core team leader (usually hourly), coach (salaried), management resource, administrative source, recorder, facilitator, sub-teams. The leader is not the “Ruler,” but more of a coordinator. The recorder produces formal minutes. The facilitator keeps everyone on the same page utilizing flip charts to write down points raised, decisions made, etc. This allows everyone to visualize the issues being discussed.
• Procedures — Always have an agenda and stick to it. Ask for reports on assignments from previous meetings. Make new assignments for designated tasks. Prepare an agenda for the next meeting and set date and time for it.
• Communication — Publish meeting minutes for all to see so that all employees know what the safety team is accomplishing. Include projects completed and progress reports.


Provide resources for your team. Set goals (ones that require effort but are achievable). Set parameters. Employees need to know how they fit into the goals and how their efforts will affect and accomplish the goals. Not only do safety team members need to know and understand the goals and parameters, but all employees in the facility should be made aware of the team’s mission.


Coach, don’t control. Employees are less likely to assume responsibility if they are merely following orders. Coaches inspire people to find solutions to problems. Coaches share knowledge. A coach is also someone who can be a liaison for securing resources, information and permission from “the powers that be.”


It’s okay for employees to ask for guidance or for you to offer help if you see them floundering, but do not take over for them at the first sign of a problem — let them take ownership and work it out. Each stumble can be an opportunity for learning. Encourage employees to consider problems they face and come up with solutions.

In the same light, sometimes managers, in their drive to empower employees, send them full speed ahead to work on a problem and quickly find that the hastily determined solution is unacceptable. When this happens, managers often feel they must accept the employees’ solution or risk being perceived as unsupportive. Instead, be honest, as workers generally realize that the answer will not always be “yes” to proposed solutions…as long as facts and information are discussed.


Give time to the team. More often than not, teams are formed, goals are set, expectations are high, and then insufficient time is given to the team. When production demands increase, less emphasis is often given to a safety team’s priorities. But both can be accomplished. Once the commitment is made to create a safety team, follow through. This will build trust and, in turn, create a culture that fosters increased productivity and profitability as well as safety.


A team needs multiple personalities. It is common knowledge that there are basically four dominant personality styles: analytical, controlling, amiable and expressive (the styles come with many different names but all have the same essential dynamics). In order to have a good team, all four personality styles must be represented. (See “personality” sidebar.)


Team effectiveness needs to be evaluated periodically. In addition to team members measuring their effectiveness, get input from the plant population, which the safety team serves, to gauge their perception of the team’s effectiveness. A “customer service” survey can prove helpful for this.


Most important! Employees should be considered as an investment, not a cost. Greater efficiency and better teamwork is realized if employees feel they are an asset, that they are making a difference.

Recognition is often given to people who work on “big” problems, while those who work on elementary, day-to-day tasks often blend into the woodwork. If a football team was cheered for touchdowns only, it probably wouldn’t be a winning team. It is the clamor over five-yard gains that spurs the team to work harder for bigger gains. Teams need continual encouragement. Recognizing and rewarding a team’s efforts will strengthen the team and reduce “drop-out.”

Moreover, help the team develop celebrations for the entire workforce. If a safety team is developed correctly, it will be drawing from the entire workforce to resolve safety issues and increase safe practices and conditions. Therefore, the team needs to reward and recognize the whole population.

SIDEBAR: Give your team personality

To be successful a team needs multiple personalities, of which there are four commonly known styles.
1) Controlling — leaders; results-oriented; able to make decisions.
2) Analytical — will research and supply facts/data required to reach a decision or complete a project.
3) Amiable — work well in teams; willing to do the work; have great ideas if asked by strong leaders.
4) Expressive — able to come up with a creative project or solution; keep enthusiasm up; provide humor.