Teams Don’t Work!
(Unless You Cultivate Them with Directed Autonomy)
The company was days away from bankruptcy. It looked like nothing could save it… except for a cash infusion of a half million, which was not going to happen. Yet, six months later the company was alive, fiscally healthy, and thriving! What caused the miraculous turnaround?
Employee teams saved the company, the 60 jobs. and a hard-fought position in the marketplace.
But quality employee teams do not exist in a vacuum. They must have a CULTURE that supports them and allows the individuals to gel into a real team. To be successful in tapping into the power of teams, you must cultivate them with a supportive culture.
Traits of a Team Supportive Culture
First, the organization must be one that allows employees to become self-activated (the highest form of empowerment). Without this environment, employees will continue to look for management to solve all the problems.
A fast-growing technology company owes its success and ability to be flexible because its leaders allow employees to take risks and take ownership their own results.
Second, the leaders must believe 100% in the team process. In most cases where the team process does not produce results, leaders give “lip service” commitment to the team.
An international electronics company announced publicly that its team efforts were a bust after only six months! Employees involved in the teams were told “this team stuff is not your real work. It’s something you can do after you finish your regular duties.” No wonder it failed. There was no emotional buy-in from the leaders.
Third, the team must be able to collect rewards for its efforts and, even better, decide how to reward themselves. Get rid of “employee of the month” or salesman of the year. Instead, create team-based recognition and reward programs.
A smart leader allocated $30,000 for bonuses for her department. She used $9,000 of it to recognize specific individuals. She gave her team of six, the rest ($23,000) and empowered them to determine their own recognition rewards among the members.
Scary idea? You bet! Yet, it worked.
The team knew exactly how each member contributed to its successes and, within the present guidelines, shared the bonus without conflict!
Fourth, the team’s leader must believe and trust the team and each member. The leader shows this by:
- Being a coach to each team member.
- Demonstrating undying commitment and fully supporting each member of the team.
- Preserve a supporting structure, created by the team.
Team Success Depends on the Team’s Leader
When you decide to use the team process to improve your organization’s success, all leaders must make both emotional and financial commitments. Otherwise, the team culture will not take hold.
Organizations that use the team process have become more successful (including profitable). They benefit with lower costs, higher revenues, streamlined processes, and improved customer service.
10½ Traits of the Successful Team
- Common Vision that is uplifting and shared
- Team-based Goals that are clear cut and mutually beneficial
- Support Systems installed both inside and outside the team
- Team Structure for getting the results and work done; one flexible enough for change and strong for consistency and accountability.
- Shared Attitude of cooperation, fun, hard work, and mutual success.
- Emotional Commitments to the team, individually and collectively.
- Team Rewards that are defined and determined by the team.
- Dynamic Processes for identifying and resolving conflicts (which are inevitable and part of the team’s growing process).
- Cultural Norms that are empowering, company-wide.
- Time for it to take root; a team culture takes at least an 18-month investment.
10½. You, a courageous and tenacious leader who nurtures and allows the team to fail or succeed on its own.
Ideas for team goals
- Compensation plans to attract and retain quality people.
- Incentive plans that reward teamwork and a focus on what is important
- Company budget that shares resources with the team
- Revenue targets that are realistic and yet stretching.
- Workflow strategies that streamline processes.
- Customer service process for constant improvement in satisfying customers – internally and externally.
- Business risk identification and mitigation plans.
Use the team process to make better business decisions instead of relying on one person to do it. It will improve your bottom line – guaranteed!
Team Leader Credo
As a team leader, I will continually challenge myself and:
- Keep the group focused and on track.
- Exhibit personal commitment to the team’s purpose and do the work I am assigned.
- Be open to all new ideas and information presented.
- Not dilute the team’s efforts with too many priorities.
- Avoid compromising the team’s goals with political issues.
- Be fair and impartial toward all team members.
- Confront and resolve issues on inadequate performance by any team member immediately and confidentially.
- Continually demonstrate my belief in the team process, especially to those not involved with the team.
- Do everything I can to achieve our success including removing externally imposed restrictions.
- Be accountable to myself and to the team.
Team Member Credo
As a team member, I will continually challenge myself and:
- Believe in the team’s purpose and goals by making them a higher priority than any personal goal.
- Demonstrate a realistic understanding of my role and those of my teammates.
- Collaborate effectively with team members.
- Stand behind and support team decisions and demonstrate the courage of conviction by directly confronting important issues.
- Respond constructively to the feedback I receive from my teammates and the team leader.
- Share information, perceptions, and feedback openly.
- Use objective and fact-based judgment.
- Be willing to devote whatever effort is necessary toward team accomplishment.
- Show leadership in ways which contribute to the team’s success and take over the leader’s position whenever necessary.
- Be accountable to me and to the team.