Reading a Key to Team Building
Reading is fun.
Just ask the employees at North Town Insurance, who were excited when managers at the small agency launched a weekly book reading and discussion session.
Employees each have a copy of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a popular business title from author Patrick Lencioni that explores team dynamics and offers solutions to help teams perform better. Employees practice different activities associated with the book and they discuss a chapter each week.
The exercise is aimed at opening people up to talking about the work environment and solutions to problems, according to Lisa LeBlanc, the firm’s chief operating officer, who said the idea was launched over the summer.
“At first it was uncomfortable because it was a very vulnerable type of study,” she said. “By the end, I was amazed how the team was transformed in their trust of each other and their peer-to-peer feedback.”
Employees also channeled their positive feedback into responses for Insurance Journal’s annual survey in which they voted North Town as Best Agency to Work For – Bronze award for the West region.
The 15-employee firm, which ended 2017 with roughly $1.5 million in revenue, earned high praise from those who took the survey.
“Firstly, most recently, we have had very accomplished people, of great quality, character and with their current work, ask to be a part of our team,” one employee wrote. “So awesome and what a statement! I can’t express how proud I am that we are searched out! And another, we do group book studies on team work and self-improvement, amongst other things such as outings and get-togethers, to strengthen and purify the bond of the collective team; to enhance and fuel the culture of North Town Insurance.”
The employee wrote that Monday was her favorite day of the week.
“I look forward to being at work, around my teammates and in a place that feels more home than a career,” the employee wrote.
The team environment was one of employees’ most oft-cited positive aspects of the firm.
“Our agency has an amazing team that has been pushed by great management staff to become great teammates,” another employee wrote. “We have overcome some big changes and struggles because of the work they have put into training us in insurance knowledge but also how to understand and work with each other’s different personalities. This agency is truly one of a kind.”
Several respondents to the survey said they viewed the team-building activities as an investment.
“I think my agency is the best to work for because the amount of care and investment in the people themselves — over sales, numbers and recognition — is unparalleled,” one employee wrote. “It has been hard work, but the heart of the whole team, stemming first from the leadership, cannot be ignored. We are a team to be reckoned. #insuranceDOESNTsuck.”
Other team-building exercises included a cruise in August on Lake Coeur d’Alene, a community barbecue and participating in a give-backpack challenge in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
“We commit to hiring the right people. We play together away from work. We donate time and resources to our community. We hold one another accountable,” one employee wrote in explaining what makes the agency the best to work for.
LeBlanc said the team-building has also helped build transparency in the office, and that the feedback from the weekly book discussions, as well as regular one-on-one meetings with each team member, has established clear lines of communication all around.
“There’s never too much communication and we really promote that,” LeBlanc said.