The Key to Getting the Best from Your Team

Rich Caron, CIO, TAMKO Building Products LLC
Rich Caron, CIO, TAMKO Building Products LLC

Rich Caron, CIO, TAMKO Building Products LLC

When I started at TAMKO Building Products LLC nearly two years ago, I wondered what to expect working for a privately-owned company with 75 years of history.  I had never worked for a family-led business, and had heard throughout my onboarding about the “intentional culture” that seemed to permeate every conversation at TAMKO. I was shocked that I had entered a company that not only talked about culture, but had a highly-curated and defined culture of its own.

Within a very short time, I saw others at TAMKO practice intentional culture creation – and benefit from the results. It was a revelation. Shortly after my introduction to TAMKO’s culture, I realized that because of traditional structuring, the IT group had been partially insulated from much of that culture. This was a real eye-opener. For the first time, I saw the potential benefits a positive work culture to motivate and get the best out of a team. These benefits are real and tangible – you can almost hold them in your hand.

With more than 25 years of working across the globe in manufacturing IT leadership, I’ve seen team members who are superstars and others who struggle to operate at that level. They were all technically smart people, but for some, something was missing. Until I came to TAMKO,I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong.

I’ve come to the conclusion that IT teams can be so focused on providing technical training that they miss the incredible opportunity to guide employees into truly learning the business and seeing the corresponding value of a positive workplace culture. It does not matter how brilliant your technical skills are. If you do not know your business, understand the products your organization creates, or have empathy and communication skills, you will be ineffective– and therefore unsuccessful.

  With more than 25 years of working across the globe in manufacturing IT leadership, I’ve seen team members who are superstars and others who struggle to operate at that level​  

How do we drive this change throughout IT? At TAMKO, we have flipped the training paradigm, to value the workplace culture first and then advance technical skills. 

Priorities Reorganized

1. The first step to building a high performing team is to prioritize your approach to focus on learning and development: learn the business and develop a thorough understanding of the nature of the products your organization creates.

2. Next, learn culture creation, how to relate to others, improve your EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), and learn how to speak the business’ language.

3. Only then should we provide technical training.

When we started down this path, I discovered that many new and long-time IT employees had never been to TAMKO’s manufacturing facilities and were unfamiliar with the products we manufacture. With this realization, I decided to cancel several technical IT conferences and spend the year focusing on developing our “soft” skills.

The Training Pyramid

I created a training “Pyramid” to align the team on our most valuable training priorities. At the bottom of the pyramid, we invested time learning our manufacturing processes by bringing in subject matter experts from other parts of the business to give us “101” lessons in how TAMKO acquires and processes some of our most important raw materials and how we manufacture our products. Even though the training was initially mandatory, the entire IT team welcomed it. The training even helped foster a connection between IT and the rest of the business by becoming so popular that employees from outside IT began to join the sessions.

Next, we began working to speak to the business in a non-technical way.  This built credibility, increased understanding between IT and the rest of TAMKO and led to better solutions that make the business more successful.

Most importantly, at the next level we set aside time to learn about ourselves and how to have healthy meetings and discussions. TAMKO has the best coaching and training staff I have ever seen. They help employees understand the full range of a healthy work environment and make all of us better colleagues and teammates. We now better realize that our interactions should include a dose of healthy conflict, which, done correctly, can break down barriers and increase energy around the office. We dedicated time to training about each employees’ core motivations to build trust between team members and helpus see each other’s unique personality styles. Management is also encouraged to have periodic “healthy meetings” to ensure we set aside dedicated time to embrace the process of learning TAMKO’s culture.  

Technical conferences, symposiums, certifications, and so on are essential for IT to learn the latest technologies and enable innovation, however, we cannot focus exclusively on technical training. Additionally, it is a mistake when leaders let workplace culture form naturally rather than defining what it should be and then providing the leadership and tools necessary for others to embrace it.

Culture creation is not free, nor is it easy. It calls on leaders to make a deliberate and focused effort to take their teams away from day-to-day tasks and set aside time for culture awareness. It is an investment we make today for a benefit tomorrow. Take time away from busy schedules and commit to investing in employees.

The benefits of this are REAL and MEASUREABLE. Last year, research by global analytics firm Gallup found that businesses in the top quarter of employee engagement “realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability” than those in the bottom quarter.

Bottom line – your internal culture will either strengthen or undermine your objectives. A positive culture:

• Attracts top talent
• Increases engagement and retention
• Increases job satisfaction and a sense of purpose
• Increases performance, which translates to financial gains

The Key to Getting the Best from your Team

I can say that I have both professionally and personally grown through this process. I have a better sense of purpose in my job. I am more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and have developed a better approach to working with others’ strengths and weaknesses. The IT team at TAMKO had tremendous potential, but it was unleashed only when we challenged and encouraged each other. We found ways to offer more value to the business because we did the hard work of listening to and understanding our customer before we presented solutions to problems we didn’t fully understand.

It’s made all the difference in our organization and I believe it could for yours as well.

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