During recent months I’ve been asked to do a number of workshops on team building. These principles should be considered plain common sense.
- The team comes first. A recent Men’s Health magazine interviewed Navy Seals about what’s critical to their success. They said that the most important thing was an understanding that the team comes first. Because we live in a society that prizes rugged individualism, this can be a difficult concept to fully grasp. Often the most difficult challenge for management is the employee who’s productive, but not a team player. Is it worth keeping the Prima Donna at the cost of destroying the team? That’s the question. You know the answer.
- Teams need leadership and a sense of direction. What are the vision, mission, and goals for the team? Who’s in charge of communicating them and making sure they get accomplished? Is the person in charge a good leader, or just someone with the most experience? Are they motivating or demotivating by nature? Do they spend most of their time praising or criticizing?
- All team members must lead by example. Can you honestly say that you gave it your best today? Are you genuinely caring toward other team members? Are you committed to improving your skill sets constantly? Do you enjoy playing team or would you rather be a solo flier? One of the things I teach is understanding the “processional” effect of our actions. For example, how we treat a team member impacts how they treat clients, customers, and their own family members. Are you fully aware of your processional impact?
- Treat each other with respect. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talked about how graduate students were able to see the “thin slice” of information that would determine whether the marriage of a couple in therapy would survive or not. Their conclusion: The single most important factor in the chance of survival was whether or not the couples treated each other with respect — even though they disagreed. Having respect toward team members is paramount. It makes no difference whether you’re the head chef or the dishwasher. This means you follow the Golden Rule and treat team members the way you would want to be treated — no matter what their position is.
- Eliminate the fear. What are the fears present in your environment? Perhaps there are new team members and you’re concerned that they won’t respect your “way of doing things.” Perhaps you’re the new team member and you’re concerned that the old team members won’t respect the “best practices” you bring with you. Perhaps the fear is that you’re of a different age, sex, religion, or sexual orientation from other team members. Will they be inclusive of your differences? Are you inclusive of theirs? Perhaps the fear on the team is that if you try to contribute a suggestion, it will be shot down and ridiculed every time. Fact is, every team has its fears. Eliminating them will guarantee increased team work.
- Know what it means to “win.” How are you keeping score? What benchmarks are important to team success? Is it getting the project out on time? Is it increasing client satisfaction? Is it winning some type of excellence award? Are you playing win/win and generating more winners than losers on your team?
- Have you reduced your commitments to writing? We can’t assume that others play team the way we do. Take a look at this month’s Form of the Month: Team Commitments. Tweak this document to address your team needs. Once you do, place it in your employee handbook and then blow it up and put it on your walls.
All of the above is plain common sense. What’s lacking in most environments is the discipline and commitment to following these powerful guidelines.