A good team and excellent teamwork are critical to creating a successful result, in any endeavor. We have all been part of a team, and we may be trying to build one. I know I learned a lot in managing, leading others and building a team by just watching others. More often than not it was what you should NOT do. We all have the ability to discern what works and doesn’t work, so don’t be afraid to use your instincts and common sense to build an awesome group of people who can work well together to achieve an important goal. A high level of teamwork is critical with all the change and growth that is occurring in most businesses. We talk about people pulling together to reach a common vision and goal with excellence. There is a certain synchronization that occurs when all the people involved are on that same page, working in unison to reach a well-understood goal or objective.
I thought about this in my own context of leading teams of 6,000 and eventually 15,000 employees. I like to think I came close, but when I reflect back I never really achieved perfect coordination and teamwork. Is it really possible? I believe it is, but it is certainly a “process” that you can’t give up on.
Teamwork and everyone working together in unison was vivid in a book I recently read, The Boys in the Boat. It’s about a rowing team of depression-era boys who had to overcome very difficult personal situations just to be at the University of Washington and win a spot on the crew team. They knew about hard work and they certainly showed it when their teamwork came together to win the 1936 Olympics in Germany. Visualize this 8-man rowing team, and when they really connected –getting in the “swing” – they were rowing together in one synchronous movement, as one entity. It is a great metaphor on perfect teamwork.
This book – and many books written today about business often start with everyone sharing a common vision and goal, with everyone on the team pulling in a common direction.
Here are key takeaways on building a great team:
For example, do you expect people to speak up, not hold anything back? I call it “dynamic tension”. You want people on the team that care, not just go with the flow and don’t make waves. You want everyone to participate, but once a decision is made, and they have had an opportunity to offer their input, they need to get on board.
You can certainly do this in a branch, because everyone is in one location, but I had the benefit of having all corporate employees in one location. We had all new employees attend a half-day orientation. I made a point of speaking to these new employees and talked about our culture and what we expected. For our team it was “Teamwork, Hard Work and Integrity”. We expected these attributes to be embraced by everyone. If they couldn’t go along with this simple commitment, it was time to say they picked the wrong company.
Every team and culture is different. Screen people that will fit in with what you want. Do it right up front. Perhaps it’s serving others, the value of the team versus the individual, etc. This goes for Top Producers as well.
Knowing the vision and mission of the team and organization is huge. In my opinion no one wants to be average. Everyone wants to be part of something special.
Understanding individual job responsibilities is critical, but often managers neglect to discuss them specifically enough. They leave responsibilities too ambiguous.Months can go by and the excuse is “well I didn’t know I was to do that or I didn’t know that’s what you meant.” No matter how you add it up, it’s lost time, which = lost momentum, which means lost opportunity.
Metrics for individual and team performance need to be tracked daily and weekly and understood by all. You simply cannot achieve what’s not measured. The metrics need to be simple – ideally no more than 5 or 6 – and shared broadly. If your team is small and part of a bigger picture, the metrics should all point in the same direction and add up or fit into the company’s vision and goal.
It is a mistake not to get up from behind your desk and see what’s going on. I understand the reasons for not doing this – there is too much work to be done. But don’t fall victim to that excuse; you learn too much being out of your office by talking to the people who do the work.
Once you know the issues and concerns, address them immediately. Many of the things you discover are probably slowing the process down anyway.
Money is important, no question about it. BUT, people and teams need to be recognized for hitting goals and significant milestones. It is the recognition that keeps the momentum going.
You can always communicate more…even that is almost never enough. Communication is not always about talking or giving direction but listening to your team. Reinforce your message continually.
Consistency is key. What applies to one group should apply to all. And as the leader, that goes for you too. Remember, they are always watching. Just like kids are always watch what the parents do, employees are watching what you do.
So . . . how do you think you are doing as a manager and leader? Would you give yourself high marks on all these areas? Spend a few minutes and do a self-assessment. Rate yourself a 5 if you were great at any one of the eight, and a 1 if you really need to improve or you’re not doing this step at all. Do it for all 8 questions.
If you scored a 40, you are exceptional. If you are at 32 or higher, you are doing very well. If you are 31 or less, then there is work to do, but you now know the areas to focus on. By intentionally focusing on these key areas, you can’t help but experience more of that teamwork magic.