Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical potion that can instantly create a sense of teamwork within an organization. People often say “we are lacking a sense of team” or “the team doesn’t seem to be working together.” Its fairly common to find leaders within an organization constantly fostering a “team” environment/concept. Creating that strong team is not a flash in the pan; it requires constant attention. It is crucial to the overall success of the organization. And sometimes, it takes an outside, third-party to help you facilitate this. I know there have been many times where I had said something over and over and it fell on deaf ears. I brought in a neutral party for a team building session, they said the same thing and all of a sudden there is buy-in. Frustrating, yes, but it helped me move towards my goal.
Starting at the Top:
Self-assessment is an important trait of a leader. I often say you are only as strong as your team. What are the qualities and behaviors you, as the leader of the organization, portray? Do you make time to actually go out and talk to your team in person, or do you rely heavily on communicating through email? Do you show genuine interest/care/compassion when talking with your team, or are you just focused on business at hand? Do you have a healthy work-life balance, or are you sending emails at all hours of the day and night expecting an immediate reply? Taking the time to figure out who YOU are as a leader and portraying that behavior sets the tone.
Setting the Expectation:
Within the organization, are there clear roles and responsibilities? Is there an organizational hierarchy? Are there clear and concise job descriptions? When people are left with vague expectations, do not have a clear understanding of what their job really entails, or expectations are constantly changing, it creates an environment where there is no sense of responsibility or ownership. Developing consistent job descriptions and goals allows people to know what is expected of them. This process starts at the hiring phase, but if you are in the process of an organizational overhaul, it can be done (just be sure to communicate the process!) Finally, taking the time to meet with each employee and outline these expectations gets everyone on the same page.
Right People on the Bus:
Having developed those job descriptions and expectations will now help you determine if you have the right people in the right roles or the right people on the team. How many times have you found yourself adjusting the job description to fit the person? It is the other way around. Make sure the person is the right fit for the position. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration: are the competent, are they meeting expectations, are they a contributing member of the team, do they foster a positive-feedback relationship with supervisors and co-workers? Take the time to create thorough evaluations that measure more than just their punctuality and attendance. Once you have the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, you are one step closer!
This step seems fairly obvious, but is the one step that is most often left out. Leaders go through the steps: do a self assessment and figure out where to adjust behavior, develop job descriptions that are the envy of their peers, figure out if they have the right people on the bus, and they move forward with taking action. But they forget to tell people what they are doing! Transparency goes a long way. Letting the team know what the plan is, and give them an opportunity to be heard. Maybe they have some great insight that you might not have thought of, or are approaching things from a different perspective. Allowing them a voice and to be part of the process will gain buy-in from the start.
Please and Thank You’s:
We all learned our manners in grade school. The workplace is a great place to practice them. Saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way. Also, when you, as a leader, practice this behavior, it will rub off and you will see your team do it. Same goes with appreciation. Celebrate those successes. Let people know they are valued and they are doing a good job. Everyone likes to hear how they are valued for their contributions. This is not to say you throw a parade every time someone meets a deadline, this is reserved for when a significant contribution is made, someone does more than expected, or really adds value to the end product.
As mentioned earlier, this is not a one-and-done approach. It is going to take constant vigilance to ensure that you are modeling the right behavior and your team is as well. It is practiced at every new hire, and every time there is a change in the team dynamic. But once you get to a place where this becomes habit, you will see a marked difference in the overall team environment.
Feel like you need some help getting this started, or you want an objective third party to help facilitate? Contact Harpeth Consultant Advisory Group to discuss your needs and how we can help.