Is Your Team Holding You Back?
by Colleen Ferrary
Have you been told your team needs HR? Is your team asking for more fun events? Maybe everyone just expects more money and the flow of people into your office asking for raises is overwhelming?
These are symptoms of a growing company who hasn't truly figured out the true essence of team. Most companies start by pitching words around and hoping they stick. By calling yourself transparent, collaborative, team-players, agile, triggering, etc... doesn't make you transparent and nimble. More importantly, it doesn't build a team. A great team is MANDATORY to becoming all these things.
Here are 5 simple steps to build teamwork in your company:
1. Find ways to help the team get to know each other on a personal level and build trust.
Let me note, really get to know each other. Just like a good host when throwing a dinner party, your job is to help your team find commonalities. This doesn't happen arbitrarily. When left to chance, your team will bundle in cliques that can be detrimental to teamwork.
Set up cross-departmental lunches, organize golf outings, team building events and be sure to leverage icebreakers at meetings with well thought out questions. As a leader, by being vulnerable and participating in icebreakers with your team, you will set the standard of trust. One of my most moving icebreakers was a surprisingly simple one: Tell us about your favorite childhood toy and why it was so important to you. Responses from bereavement, poverty, and divorce filled the room and generated rich, deep conversations that permeated the entire group.
2. Leverage cross-departmental teams to teach communication, conflict management and the art of holding their peers accountable.
Be strategic when building these teams. Of course you'll want the right talent on the team, but be sure to pepper in diversity of thought, department, gender, race and personality. Don't leave these teams to their own devices. Spend time helping them get to know each other and understand what each of them brings to the table. Check in regularly and ask probing questions to identify gaps in teamwork. Positively encourage (or even assign) one-on-one conversations and teach members of the team to have honest conversations, manage conflict, and hold each other accountable. By teaching your team solid skills, your employees will start to eliminate roadblocks and help them discover the benefit of collaboration.
3. Develop your team.
Many leaders don't understand how development can lead to teamwork. There are some obvious assumptions such as mentorships and secondments. The real truth is that when an employee is being developed, the fear of losing their job subsides and they stop protecting their job. When someone is protecting their job, the tendency to not share information and even to discredit or defame someone else becomes higher. Sadly, many educated people hold a tendency to blow out other's light because they believe it makes their own seem brighter. When someone is confident in your belief in them, the fear of protectionism fades and allows for team growth.
4. Eliminate toxicity immediately.
There are negative people and negative teams of people within your organization. Toxic people generally have no idea they are wreaking havoc on your team. They are gossips, complainers, and those who are quick to identify other's weaknesses. A surprising characteristic is someone who listens to toxic conversation and doesn't speak up. Some people love to hear the gossip and can't wait to get to the water cooler. Silence is an affirmation and actually breeds more negativity because toxic employees now have an audience. Unfortunately, they are also part of the problem. Many times even you, as a leader, can be part of the problem. Teaching your team how to operate with positive intent at all times- and doing so yourself - will change communication. In recap, stop negative conversations in their tracks. If you have a toxic employee, take action quickly. Don't reward (listen, condone, ignore) toxic behavior.
5. Create recognition platforms.
Create an environment where teams are encouraged to recognize each other. Start meetings off with public recognition where employees recognize each other. Create forums for people to share ideas with the ability for everyone to "like" them or comment. Team recognition is not always as simple a culture to create. You have to carve out time in a busy schedule to spend the first 5 minutes - and sometimes 15 minutes - to recognize each other. This is time well spent.
A final note, great teams don't just happen. They are built over time. Hiring people who complement your culture and your team is the first step. The second step is taking the time to break down barriers and set processes in place that, like building blocks, will cement the teamwork and grow your organization. Great teams can propel a team forward and generate a level of innovation and creativity that can be crushed by dysfunction. Great teams produce more, stay longer, and protect their companies from mistakes and threat.
For help building your team, contact Ferrary Consulting or Small Business USA.
Colleen Ferrary has been leading and building impenetrable teams for over 20 years.