Creating a "team of bosses" can do wonders for employee morale and help win more business.
| 5:00 a.m. February 7, 2023
Abraham Lincoln had his “team of rivals.” Bill Braisted has a “team of bosses.”
Braisted is director of construction at Bay Area Exteriors, part of Tampa-based Building Easier Construction Group, which was founded eight years ago by Will Daniel and is a supplier of building materials such as vinyl siding, Hardie siding, artisan siding and trellises, in addition to offering general contracting and new construction services.
Daniel hired Braisted in July 2022 to take charge of and grow the company’s commercial services division. A key part to hire: Braisted was given a great amount of leeway in developing his job as well as the positions of the six direct reports and six indirect reports under him.
“When I brought Bill on, it wasn’t like, ‘Here’s your role,’” Daniel says. “It was like, ‘You’re the right fit for the organization. We’ll figure it out and make it work for both of us.’”
Braisted says he’s adopted that philosophy as he strives to flatten the hierarchy of the team he leads. They are in high-pressure sales and site supervision roles, and so Braisted sought to minimize distractions such as office politics and interpersonal rivalries.
“I'm trying to encourage these guys to take ownership of their jobs, to take ownership of their relationships,” Braisted says. “I want our guys to form not only professional but also personal relationships with the people they're interacting with on a day-to-day basis. Not only does that buy us goodwill with our customers when we need it, but we've quickly come to realize that a lot of decisions for who is awarded work happen in the field. Superintendents and project managers will go to their executives and say, ‘You know, I really liked working with Bay Area Exteriors. What do we need to do to make sure that they're awarded our next contract?’”
Such broad latitude, Daniel says, has the added benefit of making employees feel motivated and integral to the company’s success.
“From an organizational standpoint,” Daniel says, “we're looking for the execution of our values to deliver the best result for our customers. At the end of the day, we need people to be empowered to make decisions to make building easier for our customers.”
Braisted says it’s important to note his “team of bosses” approach hasn’t been an overnight success, It took some convincing to get staff members to buy in to the concept. When people are used to a certain structure, change can be difficult.
“Initially, I can't say that they were convinced that what I was asking of them, or allowing them to do, or encouraging them to do was something that they’re going to be comfortable with doing,” he says. “But over time, after building confidence and trust, they've come to understand that this is key to our values and they’ve stopped asking permission to do certain things on their job sites. Every opportunity I get, I tell them how proud I am of them and that we see the difference they’re making in our relationships and the productivity of our jobs, and they're starting to see the impact of them taking ownership on our company as a whole.”
Not even a year into his tenure at Bay Area Exteriors, Braisted was promoted. But in keeping with his approach to team-building, he chose not to change the title on his business card because he didn’t want staff members and clients treating him any differently and potentially disrupting the organizational culture he’s trying to cultivate.
“In my opinion,” he says, “title doesn’t matter. We are all members of the same team; we are all trying to achieve the same goal. Quite honestly, you can call me a laborer. As long as we achieve our mission at the end of the day, I don't care what my title is.”