Last week, JobsSunday examined teamwork and team culture.
If an organization decides to emphasize the value and importance of teamwork within the system, then management has to lay a foundation of team culture.
Once an organization has accomplished that first step, the next step is to have a process to build successful teams.
Team building is an art as much as it is a science. Both managers and employees will refer to working as a team, and that they are part of a great team, but not necessarily understand how to develop an effective team.
In a team-oriented environment, employees contribute to the overall success of the organization. Even though they have a specific job within a specific department, they are unified with other organization members to accomplish overall corporate objectives. It is the bigger picture that drives their actions.
What elements do effective teams have in common?
· Clear expectations. Management needs to ensure that they clearly communicate expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes. Team members need to understand why this specific team was created. Both management and team members need to agree that the time and resources allocated to the team are sufficient to meet the organization’s objectives.
· Context. Team members need to understand why they are participating on this specific team. They need to understand the strategy and how it will help the organization meet its’ goals. The work that they do must fit in to the overall big picture. Management needs to lay out a clear map.
· Commitment. The purpose and values of the organization provide a clear sense of direction, especially in regards to teamwork. Team members understand how their individual work fits into the team goals and is aligned with the corporate mission and values. Employees need to be willing to put aside personal needs for the benefit of the team goals.
· Contribution. The effectiveness of a team is a direct result of the skills that members possess and the initiative that members are willing to expend. Strong interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn different aspects of the organization are critical. Managers need to ensure that team members have opportunities to do more than take notes.
· Communication. For a team to be truly effective, team members need to feel comfortable sharing new and maybe unpopular ideas. Innovation, regardless of how radical, needs to be encouraged. Management needs to lay a foundation that will foster open communication without retribution. If team members feel that they cannot openly express their opinions, thoughts, etc. then they eventually shut down and cripple effectiveness.
· Cooperation. The dynamics of the workplace have changed dramatically over the past ten years. Many more organizations have become global and national. As a result, strong performances by local individuals have been replaced with various degrees of interdependence between team members. It is critical that management focus on methods of cooperation between departments, facilities, offices, etc. How well different parts of the organization exchange information, data, ideas, even resources will determine the success of teamwork.
· Conflict management. It is inevitable that teams made up of bright, diverse thinkers will experience conflict occasionally. The conflict itself is not so much the problem. How the conflict is managed is the challenge. If conflict is ignored instead of managed, it eventually becomes the “elephant in the room”. Unresolved conflict takes the form of tension, hidden agendas, stubbornness, and avoidance. Teams need to have a process to use to resolve conflict – a process that is used on all issues that need to be resolved.
If an organization has a strong team culture, and a strong team building blueprint, the next step becomes much more likely to have success. Next week JobsSunday examines the specific skill sets need by team members.