Listening carefully to her team members, adjusting her recognition and praise in response to their concerns, and most of all, by persevering, Elżbieta Górska is making her department more productive while also making it a better place to work.

Elżbieta Górska-Kołodziejczyk manages a warehouse in a Poland’s formerly state-owned paper-making plant in the city of Kwidzyn. International Paper purchased a majority stake from the government 14 years ago, and dramatic changes have taken place at the plant since then. Four-thousand five-hundred people once worked in the facility, but now only 1,600 are needed. The enterprise used to produce 200,000 metric tons of paper each year, but now ships three times as much. As a state facility behind the Iron Curtain in 1980, it packaged paper in five different wrappers. Today, as a private concern and with Poland now a member of the European Union, the paper leaves the plant in 300 different patterns or brands, bound for stores across the continent.


 "When I inherited the team I had four men -- big boys, healthy-looking guys -- who could not in any way accept the fact that a woman, and a tiny one -- because I am not a very tall woman -- was going to give them orders," she says. “In the beginning, they did not want to do what I told them. It was unpleasant. For a long time, they were resisting. I tried to get through to them.” At the end she succeeded, here is how:

1.Listen carefully to your team. To help her better manage the team, Górska began meeting individually with her workers. "I started with listening to them, what they have to say, how they see it, how they would want the work to be organized, what more would they expect, what kind of work materials are they lacking," she says. "At the same time, I wrote down their problems and issues they wanted to be resolved. When we met again, I reported on what had been done. It also brought us closer." She disregarded comments that she was mothering her employees and followed her instincts.

2.Praise when a good job is done.  "She says things such as, 'Girls, keep going. Good job. It was super!'" says Irena Krajewska, a five-month employee at the warehouse. "Elżbietę is happy when she sees everybody. She's like a colleague, without the formality." Asked how she acknowledges when an employee has done a good job, Górska reaches over and with one hand embraces the neck of two-year employee Ania Haffke, gives her a peck on the cheek, and flashes a big smile. "She's approachable, like a colleague," says Haffke. "She's also demanding. It's better not to say what she says when she's demanding. But she's not controlling every person every minute. She shows people their errors and mistakes without raising her voice. She shows you how to do things right."

The manager also tried to bolster the team's sense of worth, reminding members that without their efforts, the entire plant would come to a halt, and that they were just as important as any other part of the facility. She tried to instill in them the advice her father gave her to "avoid stupid people" and "go around the foolishness."

3. Create a better place to work. The manager says it took two years of hard work, with 12-hour days when she first assumed the role, to change the warehouse's culture. She introduced computer-based technology into the operation. She encouraged cross-training so team members could adjust to changing work demands. She petitioned for the funds to create a "social room" with a refrigerator, microwave, cupboards, table, and chair, to make work life more enjoyable for her team. Those efforts drove employee engagement from the most disenchanted quartile in the Gallup database to the top quartile. The team progressed from ”disorganization" to a "real warehouse”

"I must be crazy. I'm so positive about people," says Górska. "I know that some people tap their finger against their forehead behind my back, but it doesn't bother me at all. I have my private philosophy, and it keeps me alive."

Górska aspires to have her employees be increasingly cheerful, knowing that if they have a good day at work, they will have a better life at home. And in the future, "even if they don't work here, I hope they will remember me as a good managers -- remember the times here, and they will be smiling." She firmly believes that in giving employees challenging tasks, then showing him how well he performed, she boosted their confidence and made them more open to receiving both praise and direction from her.