Business leaders toss the word “teamwork” around like some boundless, renewable resource. Well, it’s not. In fact, teamwork is a precious commodity revered by those who have achieved it and envied by those who want it. You can refer to employees as team members, use scoreboards and do huddles every day, but these exercises are no guarantee that teamwork will follow.
FACT: Teamwork is an outcome. It is the culmination of a multitude of complex forces, systems and accountabilities that merge into one truly dynamic state of being called teamwork. In this teamwork state of being, the collective energy of individuals harmoniously synchronizes to achieve the extraordinary. It’s much like achieving a true meditative state. One must learn to quiet the mind until a “oneness” with the world is achieved. This meditative state is difficult enough for individuals to master. Consider the added complexity of groups of individuals – all possessing unique personalities, ambitions and job functions – coming together to achieve that state of being we call teamwork.
Without question, teamwork is more work than most leaders and employees realize. By repositioning teamwork as a state of being, leaders gain a new appreciation for this often overused term. Suddenly, all claims of teamwork are put into question.
The test is simple. Is there a unified, shared vision in your company? If so, is it evident in the actions and performance of all employees in all departments? Is everyone pulling the company in the same direction?
Yes, even the best sports teams drop the ball and bungle plays every now and then. But those who possess that true teamwork state of being have the highest degree of execution. In business, the scorecards show high customer retention, fierce employee loyalty with low turnover, and financial performance that leaders are proud of.
Every successful company has a few fantastic stories of how everyone pulled together to overcome and achieve the impossible. In the heat of those quests, there existed a teamwork state of being. Such is the power of working together.
Given that teamwork is a state of being, it’s easier to comprehend its fragility. In business, change is relentless. And change is the ever-present nemesis of teamwork. In order for change to occur, new systems and behaviors need to be learned. It’s like a sports team learning new, more challenging plays. Change exerts pressure on teamwork. It disrupts its state of being.
Unforeseen changes, such as the loss of a key leader, team member or major customer, or a cash crisis forcing challenging cutbacks, can snap a business out of its teamwork state of being. A by-product of change, planned or not, is the toxic drama that can follow in its wake. Drama is a teamwork killer. Leaders who don’t have their finger on the pulse of the business can quickly find teamwork deteriorating into chaos. All teams have leaders, but few leaders do the work necessary to elevate individuals into a cohesive teamwork state. Inspiring, demanding, tenacious, compassionate, tough decision-making and pure “no compromise” describes leaders who create high-achievement teamwork environments.
Teamwork fizzle can happen in an instant. Follow these tried-and-true No-Compromise strategies to maintain team focus, energy and momentum:
- Fuel it: Teamwork is fueled by vision, mission and objectives: Don’t expect teamwork if the challenge is vague or undefined. A neat idea may get teamwork out of the gate, but it won’t keep it going. Be specific.
- Relentlessly communicate it: Communicate your vision, mission and objectives. Too many leaders stop communicating and wonder why teamwork deteriorates. Lack of communication can signal that the mission is over.
- Track it: It’s hard to play to win when no one is keeping score. Scoreboards show progress and opportunities for improvement. When the answer to “How are we doing?” is “Not good enough,” you’re inviting fizzle.
- Celebrate it: Celebrate progress and wins along the way. Doing so fuels teamwork energy and maintains momentum. Achieving incremental milestones is like climbing a ladder; each step brings you closer to the top.
- Coach it: Coach teams and individuals. They will encounter those inevitable obstacles. This may require additional resources or mini-teams to brainstorm solutions. The key is getting back up to speed before fizzle sets in.
- Just do it: Make tough decisions and move on. If you have to pull a weed or two from your team, do it. If coaching efforts fail, you must act to protect the integrity of the team. Laboring too long over a tough decision creates funk and slows everything down.
- Reward it: Teams love rewards. There’s nothing like that surprise lunch or bonus celebration to power up teamwork. Sometimes simpler is better. Learn what motivates your team.
- Enjoy it: Make it fun. Teamwork, games, winning and celebrating should have fun built in. Sure, there will be tough moments, but fun should be waiting when breakthroughs occur. Fun is contagious. Fun is empowering. Have fun.
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