Delicate Balance Makes The Team Approach Work (Part 2 of 3)
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series on building successful organizations.
Anyone in an organization who believes he or she can do something alone is in trouble. By definition, it takes people working together for an organization to be successful.
Some time ago, a friend of mine who had started a company and had seen it grow was frustrated that everyone wanted to work with him and not his associates. Because of his strong team beliefs and because he knew why he was successful, he took out a full-page ad in a regional publication. At the top of the page the ad read, “Freeman AND ASSOCIATES.” The only other thing on the page was at the bottom – “Please note where our strength lies.”
In order for people to work together successfully, senior management must support a team approach, both in words and in actions. Many times I have seen the employee problem-solving team concept (quality teams) fail because there was a lack of senior management support.
The chairman of a successful communication company has said repeatedly to his employees, “We at corporate are here to serve you. The organization chart is backwards. We are at the bottom.” Not only does he say it, his actions show it.
Often overlooked is the need for middle management’s support of the team concept. Caught in the middle in some team programs, middle managers can and do feel threatened by decisions they don’t make.
To avoid this pitfall, it is important that middle managers are:
- clearly communicated with regarding the team concept;
- given the opportunity to participate in it;
- and involved in the earliest problem solving team training programs.
Successful teamwork also demands a clear vision of a common goal. Commitment to this goal influences people to help each other, whether in winning a game, producing beautiful music, or turning out the highest quality product.
The same shared pride is found in quality business teams; they often celebrate together after solving a tough problem or completing a creative effort.
In a healthy team, each individual member feels proud of what the team does and what he or she contributes. After a winning team sport effort, players don’t beat their own chests. They throw their arms around each other and sometimes jump with joy on each other. Building a successful team obviously means
choosing team players. The fact is that some individuals are more oriented toward working together than are others. One of our clients – a professional football team – puts a high premium on teamwork. They spend considerable time investigating how a player will get along with other people. In the final analysis, more energy may be devoted to determining this than how fast a player runs or how strong he is.
In our research on effective team members we have found that good team members are good communicators and particularly good listeners. They involve others in order to get their ideas and to check their own understanding. In a work environment, good basic communication skills are imperative. Unfortunately, I have observed situations in which companies have tried to develop sophisticated communication programs when they had yet to master basic communication skills.
Good team members have high initiative. To be more specific, they originate action beyond specific job responsibilities. They are able to work without direction and are willing to look for ways to pitch in. Good team members set high standards for themselves and assist others in setting or achieving high standards. Also important to this characteristic is the ability of the individual to give and receive feedback. If you are looking for prospective team members, be especially sensitive to their ability to receive feedback openly and non-defensively. It is important and not easy.
Good team members are sensitive to others. They are other-person oriented and work hard at understanding the concerns and needs of others. They are especially good at balancing the needs of the individual with those of the organization.
Of the four basic characteristics of a good team member, this is the hardest to learn. On the other hand, good communication skills, which can be learned, help a team member focus on and support others.
Successful organizations are made up of proud people who are more interested in the group’s success than in their own.