Recently, I was sitting upstairs in the sewing room working on social media plans for the coming month. The room was buzzing with the gentle whirring of sewing machines and the rhythmic back and forth of irons. Artisans chatting about the going rate of vegetables in the market. Watching people at work is a bit like sitting in front row seats at a well orchestrated symphony. This is an office that works! And it works well!
I had to take a break from my own work to celebrate. 7.5 years ago, we had just opened our doors. Our lead team was as new to the textile industry as our artisans were. When problems came up, our artisans stared at us blankly, hoping for answers. Not too surprisingly, most of the time, we didn’t have them! There was so much trial and error in those first years, and lots of prayers and tears. Failed designs, miscalculations, miscommunication on our production line, failed attempts at navigating the government bureaucracy—the list goes on. You name it, we waded through it. And not in a graceful swan-like way! More like my toddler when she finds a mud puddle outside of our apartment building kind of a way. We were full of joy and energy, but often lacking awareness and skill.
But, today is different story! Almost 8 years in, we still hit a few road bumps, but our team has grown tremendously in competence, teamwork, and confidence. Together, we’ve learned how to solve problems in ingenuitive ways. We’ve developed deep friendships along with effective, strategic working relationships. And my friends, it is good!
3 Powerful Practices
If you are growing your own new business or leading a team, I’d like to encourage you with 3 simple things that have helped us to build our competency.
- Allow your employees to guide the process of developing skills and solving problems. Some of our most creative solutions have come from our artisans, not our lead team. The authority and responsibility that our artisans have in their work has allowed them to make their work their own. Best of all, as the lead team, we don’t have to figure out every problem on our own!
- Focus on strengthening communications and internal relationships. On our team, we care for each other personally and professionally. We keep set meeting times to makes sure nothing gets lost in translation—daily morning meeting with our heads of departments, weekly staff meeting, monthly visioning and planning meetings, and quarterly board meetings. We practice gratitude, we celebrate together, and we hold each other in prayer. We also highly value respect. These undergirding communication touch points and investment in relationships have made our work environment safe. In a safe space, people can own and learn from their mistakes, and grow in their skills without fear of being shamed. Simply put, people thrive, and so does their work.
- Mark your progress. It is easy to set goals, but it is hard to know if you are moving toward them if you don’t have any way of tracking where you are going. In 2022, we started something that our team calls a scorecard. The scorecard is a shared excel spreadsheet that allows us to enter data that help us to know if we are, in fact, reaching our goals in sales, marketing, production, and finances. It takes about 5 minutes every Monday to record the weekly data, but it gives us a quick and easy way to look back over weeks and months to see if our work is producing the outcomes we intended. If something works extra well, we can try to replicate it in coming weeks. If something we are doing seems to be failing, we can notice it early and make small adjustments before the quarter ends. It is an easy way to keep us all on track!
Tell us what you think!
So, there you have it! Three things that make this place tick, and three things that can help any team to grow in productivity! For those of you in the trenches of building a brand or developing a team, we hope these simple practices are an encouragement to you. Which one of these three sparks ideas in you? Tell us in the comments!