Digging In

Maintaining morale and building our team culture

Maintaining morale and building our team culture

By Shefali Mehta on Thursday, 27 June, 2019

Being a virtual team for SHP has many benefits. We are closer to the farmers we serve, and we are locally connected. However, it is not always easy being a virtual team.  Additionally we work in an industry that is going through tremendous upheavals facing headwinds where so many of our farmers, colleagues and community are facing challenges on many fronts.  We are empathetic and cognizant of this pain. But we also know that one of the best ways we can help is to keep working and deliver our mission.

How do we keep up our morale and stay connected as we grow in these times? It’s a question that keeps me up quite a bit - leading my team well is a top priority.

My career path has afforded me the opportunity to observe and be part of many organizations and work on organizational structures and learn cultures in many contexts around the world.  I have witnessed firsthand the impact of a functional, healthy team versus one that was not. 

During my time with SHP, the goal has been to bring as many of these lessons learned while adapting on the fly to an energetic and vibrant organization that lives in a dynamic space.  It helps that the SHP team brings a breadth of shared and diverse experiences.  From our shared experiences and collective brainstorming, we’ve established several checks and balances to improve what we do and ensure that we keep moving forward positively:

  • Team barometer - a monthly health check that ensures that we have a finger on the pulse of how the team is doing, how effectively we are delivering our mission and managing our workloads and overall health
  • Engagement specialists - SHP has recently named two employees, Stacey Stiens and Tracy Rose, who work to identify ways to connect our virtual team and ensure we feel close despite the geographic distance and the speed of our jobs
  • Weekly check ins - each of us connects with our direct reports at least weekly
  • Bi-weekly team calls - this allows the full team to connect every two weeks and share updates and make decisions across the board
  • Friday sign-off - we are usually covered in soil and sweat--literally or figuratively-- by the time we reach Friday so my directors report  a positive item or something that went well right before we go into the weekend so we can close out the week on a positive note

Adding these seemingly small but meaningful practices has made a significant impact in our overall team culture.  One teammate has noticed that “SHP has changed so much for the better over the last 9 months!" And it is our continued goal to keep improving, learning and growing to become the best team we can be.  

What our SHP team does is more than just a collective of individual jobs.  What our team does makes a difference and serves a higher purpose—for farmers, for agriculture, and for the society’s perceptions and understandings of the industry.  Since it is communicated to the team that what they do has an impact and value, they are personally invested in the success of the program, as well as, invested in our farmers, our stakeholders, and each other.  

“I'm so appreciative of the time the whole team takes in helping each other and creating a positive experience for our network,” Operations Director, Anne Dietz notes of her team, “and it begins with a healthy team culture.”

A happy team is a productive, impactful team.  And I lead with that.