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Working Together For Success

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Building a team that functions successfully as a cohesive unit can be challenging for managers. Although companies frequently talk about team players, rewards are usually reserved for individual performers who distinguish themselves from the pack. Breaking from this mindset to a “We beats I” approach that values collaboration calls for a commitment to recognizing group efforts. A manager’s approach combined with company policies can shift attitudes so employees are unified and motivated to be team players.

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success. - Henry Ford

Defining Your Mission

Let your team know that teamwork is expected and strive to create a culture of cooperation. Try to minimize rewarding individual performances in favor of recognizing team accomplishments. “The key is to clearly define your mission and everyone’s role, but to make it clear that individuals are ultimately part of a team,” says Gary Fielding, a Group Dynamics expert. Fielding also points out that goals can evolve over time and when priorities shift, team members should be kept in the loop. “It’s essential to anticipate “what-if?” scenarios in case unforeseen circumstances arise and to keep people up to speed,” he adds.

Once you have your team pointed toward specific objectives, challenge them. Allow team members to question each other’s mindsets and stretch each other’s abilities. Be careful to encourage respectful dialogue, and always be on the lookout for ways to make things more interesting. Effective leaders learn to praise people in public and correct them in private. They confront and challenge apathy and lead their teams toward a clear, personal vision.

Tapping Hidden Brainpower

People are living databases and getting the most out of them means constantly sharing knowledge. The “they don’t pay me to think” mentality is not conducive to creating a cohesive team, but it can be worse when people fail to share knowledge. Creative Director Joyce Barnes has implemented a weekly time when team members gather and share things they’ve learned with each other. “It’s everything from technical shortcuts to analyzing why something works. The idea is that knowledge shouldn’t just be stockpiled, but should flow.”

A favorite teambuilding method Barnes uses is having her team adopt the roles of other departments in the organization. “Seeing things from a different perspective opens your eyes to limitations and possibilities,” she says. However, she’s quick to note that the limitations shouldn’t be viewed negatively. “When my people have limitations it often forces them to come up with creative solutions.”

Scheduling Outside Activities

Teambuilding doesn’t have to stop at the office. Activities like attending sporting events, holiday gatherings, and outdoor trips give team members a chance to bond outside of work. “I can’t count how many times I’ve seen my team members warm up to each other after spending a day on the lake canoeing,” says Barnes.

Potluck lunches and company-sponsored dinners promote camaraderie, but offsite trips go a longer way toward having team members see the bigger picture. A day spent hiking, at an amusement park, or participating in a charity event allows for new patterns of interaction. “Using fun is a great way to get people to interact,” says Barnes. Be sure to include team members when you are deciding which activities to schedule. Give people a choice instead of assuming everyone will find an activity enjoyable.

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