Team building for newsrooms

By Virginia Citrano
“The people you hire will either help maintain, make or even break your business.” Emily Lowery, founder of Magic City Post and ShopBirmingham.com, opened the Block by Block 2012 session on “Building Your Team” with some stark words of caution.

Lowery and co-presenter Joe Michaud of Local Interactive Strategies stressed that, to build an effective team, publishers must define their business’ values and make sure that the people they are considering  hiring both understand and commit to meet those values. “Everybody on my team knows our elevator pitch,” said Lowery.

Publishers will need to take the time to find the right relationship, to train new employees and to make sure that the new employees meshes with your existing team. “When you bring a new person in, you have to go through the process of rebuilding your team again,” Lowery says.

To create an effective team dynamic, publishers must first understand their own style of management and its impact on the organization. Given how much independent publishers are doing, the management style for many can be laissez faire. “If you are too hands off,” Lowery cautioned, “chaos will ensue and someone will take over.” The polar opposite is  autocratic, but GenYers don’t want to work for that culture. Then there is democratic management. “If you let people buy into the processes they will be a lot happier,” said Lowery.

“The most effective manager can rely on all these strategies,” said Michaud. “The trick in the evolution of a manager is to know when each one is appropriate.”

People often leave companies because there is a mismatch of values. At Magic City Post, Lowery asks questions relating to those values when she is hiring to see where candidates stand, and she makes sure that new candidates meet with every member of the team before they are hired–a minimum of 7 times.

It is also imperative to have a good training program in place and written documentation on business processes, particularly for employees on their first job. Lowery said her company has a team charter, which defines the group’s goals and how they treat each other.

Michaud advised holding a monthly meeting with the team to review what has happened, and what needs to happen. “It affirms that you are all in this together,” he said.

And be sure to think creatively about  benefits. Lowery gives her team–all of whom are independent contractors–a share in locally grown food and a yoga or gym classes. She also stocks the office fridge with their favorite snacks and employees.

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