FITCHBURG — Seaman Paper, headquartered in Gardner with operations across the globe, is a leading supplier of value-added specialty lightweight papers.
During its 75 years of operation it has continued to innovate, today encompassing instantly recognizable products like the paper “plumes” that adorn millions of Hershey Kisses every year, along with custom confetti for buyers including the National Football League and Taylor Swift.
When the company was looking to grow its internal human potential, it looked to Professor Michael Greenwood, chair of the Business Administration Department at Fitchburg State University, who brings more than 30 years of national and international business experience. Professor Greenwood presented his “One Voice High-Performance Leader” curriculum to the Seaman cohort.
Sadie Brehio, a human resources generalist and executive administrator at Seaman, had taken classes with Professor Greenwood during her graduate studies at Fitchburg State and had also experienced his leadership training programs at a previous job.
“After going through the training, it will stick with you forever,” Brehio said. “It gives every team member a chance to work with each other on a whole different level. What I got out of it was understanding people a little bit better, understanding personality traits. It’s just a positive experience overall for the team.”
Earlier this fall, Greenwood led a total of 30 Seaman employees through a customized, ten-week online training program designed to build a team that can speak and act with one voice.
Central to the training is the understanding that individuals in information-driven organizations cannot complete their jobs on their own, Professor Greenwood said. But too often, the multifunctional teams that are created are not effective at cooperation. “High-performing teams are most effective when they are carefully designed, trained, and empowered,” he said.
The experience, participants said, was transformative.
Brian McAlary, Seaman’s vice president for market development in the Americas, said companies that succeed must be able to build cross-functional teams. Professor Greenwood’s curriculum focused on building that capacity.
“Getting people together who are not necessarily working together on a regular basis, in an experience-based program, really gives you an opportunity to look outside of yourself,” McAlary said. “It’s well worth it. Everyone can benefit from the course, from the new leaders we have in the company to our established leaders.”
Lee Chauvette, Seaman’s regional director of human resources, said the training gave him an opportunity to interact with colleagues in a new and productive way. When he joined breakout session in the training with members of his sales team, for example, there was an enhanced understanding of each other’s roles in the company and its success.
“We got on the subject of attracting candidates, and out of that discussion I’m going to hold an online session on current trends in hiring,” Chauvette said. “It will give everybody in the sales team a different look at what we’re going through trying to attract people.”
That enhanced sense of a shared objective was a powerful takeaway from the training experience, Chauvette said. “We all got a lot out of it. It built a level of camaraderie that otherwise might not have an opportunity to develop. It’s all about bringing empathy and compassion and teamwork, training not so much to be a manager but to be a leader. How to mentor people, how to get more out of people by focusing on the positive aspects of their career.
“Having Dr. Greenwood’s program really gave us a sense of putting together a team, having that team pull the company forward,” Chauvette continued. “He used a great analogy of driving the bus. You can drive the bus all day, but you need to get the right people on the bus. That really hit home.”
“We’re trying to move forward together, and to do that we need to be on the same page,” added Brehio.
McAlary said he appreciated the opportunity for self-awareness that came with the training. “A lot of times you can go through an entire career and not get this type of feedback,” he said. “This is an opportunity to get some of that feedback very early on, and I just think it’s very valuable.”
Looking ahead, Chauvette said he hopes the training will help Seaman and its people continue to evaluate their own roles and contributions, while treating people the way they’d wanted to be treated themselves. “Being the company that people want to work for, this training was a great start,” Chauvette said. “Now it’s up to those of us who were part of that training to bring it forward.”
Seaman plans to continue the training with another cohort of leaders in 2023.
To learn more about business training and consulting opportunities available through Fitchburg State’s Business Administration Department, contact Professor Greenwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.