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Building a Team-Driven Culture

Featuring: Tonya Oatman | VP, Retail & Spa Operations

May 16, 2022

Employees prefer a positive work culture within the workforce which is creating widespread demand for a constructive and upbeat work culture. And positive work cultures typically start with managers empowering their employees and allowing them to perform their best, giving them a sense of security within their job. No matter the position, employees want to know they are working in a functioning and constructive environment where they can truly take ownership of their job. But how can you, as a leader, create an environment where your employees have the autonomy they need to be change-makers?

We spoke with Tonya Oatman, VP of Retail and Spa Operations at Yaamava’ Resort and Casino at San Manuel, to better understand how managers can empower their employees and create a workplace culture founded upon strong teams.

Empowering Team Through Trust

Trust is one of the key components of fostering a workplace in which employees feel empowered and valued. With a diverse background across retail, Oatman has gained insights into how to build trust within your employees.

Oatman uses a method with her employees to ensure they understand their function, feel empowered to go above and beyond and have a level of autonomy that creates a sense of validation in their worth as an employee. . She says, “I teach them, I test them, and then I trust them.” Using this method allows her to actually show her employees how to handle specific situations by using her own experiences as teaching moments for the staff. Oatman recognizes each staff member is different and has a different way of learning and takes time to go through her process with them to ensure they are set up for success. Now if they need to go back a step, say from trust to test, then that’s perfectly fine! She continually uses positive reinforcement, never negative, when training an employee as a means to gain more trust between them and the workplace.

After she builds trust, Oatman proceeds to monitor and follow up with the employee by actively reinforcing her trust in them and empowering them to do their best. Taking time to help struggling employees, go through questions together, and show opportunities can allow employees to grow and help maintain a positive team.

Two (Or More) Brains is Always Better than One

Being in a leadership position doesn’t mean that a leader always has the best solutions. According to Oatman, “A good leader stops, slows down and says ‘you know what? I have the right answer but two or more people will have a better answer.’” Sometimes corporate management doesn’t have the right information to make the right decisions. Empowering your employees and letting their voices be heard gives them a sense of respect and makes them more prideful in the company or project they are working on. It also gives you unique insight into your guest experience. More often than not, the person making decisions isn’t always the one interacting with your customers.

Talking with and using ideas from employees creates synergy within your workplace. Oatman says, “You strengthen your own leadership by doing that.” Salespeople constantly interact with guests, so they will know what improvements can be made in your business. Not only will every employee feel like their opinions are being recognized and accounted for, but it helps tighten a team’s structure and better meet your customer’s expectations.

Recognize Your Team’s Skills and Play to Them

As a manager, it can be difficult deciding when someone is not the right fit for your team, but knowing when someone isn’t working out can actually help strengthen your team. Oatman states, “Everybody’s skill sets are different, so sometimes people max out their abilities.” The important thing to remember is that doesn’t mean failure. Not everybody is going to be a perfect match and you may just need to shift some things within the team. Even if 10% of your team is having setbacks, the other 90% will make it all worth it, according to Oatman.

Making sure your employees are performing to their best ability will provide better outcomes. “I may have higher standards than someone else, but I do it in a manner where you have the ability,” says Oatman. If your employees are working within their strengths and skill sets, it allows them to excel in their roles.

Something key to remember is the idea of compassion. Showing your employees compassion will help you, as a manager, get the results you are looking for and strengthen your leadership skills. You can have high expectations of your staff but you also need to understand work-life balance. Oatman mentions, “honor work-life balance by sharing that compassionate piece for any reason/team member, celebration or sadness or something they have to get through.” Your staff members will find a sense of security within the workplace and it will strengthen relationship building between staff and managers.

Find Success Through the Success of Others

To be a successful manager you need to keep a few key things in mind. Empowering your team and making their voices heard gives a sense of respect and security within the company culture. Actively listen to them and stay neutral when an issue arises. Creating synergy between staff and being compassionate can achieve positive results. Like Oatman, you need to lean on your staff just as much as they, do you. This not only helps strengthen relationships but the company and management as well.

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