2007 Fall/Winter Volume 7 No. 2

Teamwork Builds Stronger Companies

By Faye Kelley, Vice President of Business Development and Midwest Representative (IN, KY, OH)

Imagine you’re lost on an island with a group of people and everyone wants to go in different directions or try their own ideas to survive. There would be fights, conflict and a lack of cooperation. “Lost” is a very popular television show that uses this situation to develop stories for each episode. While it may make interesting TV, people are always better off when they work together.

There is little purpose in having great employees with a fantastic work ethic who are all going in different directions. It’s important to remember that none of us is smarter than all of us together, and that the power of a team will always prove stronger than that of an unorganized group of individuals.

It’s easy to see how a portable sanitation company could fail to grasp the team concept. Sales reps and service people working in their own vehicles, on their own schedules, going in different directions. The natural tendency for sales people is to compete with each other to bring in the most sales, and for service people to prove themselves by handling more territory than the next guy.

This “everyone for themselves” mentality may even work to a company’s advantage during good times. When business starts to get tight, however, it can lead to infighting, negative competition and behavior that is counterproductive to the health of the company.

Successful teams demonstrate some common characteristics. Teams that establish clear and concise objectives, discuss ideas openly, make decisions quickly and respect their leadership are the most successful. When they have a common goal to work toward, the objectives of the group can help motivate and inspire the individuals. There are six traits to cultivate in your company that can help improve and develop the team spirit, they are:

1. Strong teams work together, get along, and care about each other.

Competition is great when it’s directed at your competitors, but if internal compe-tition gets so strong that employees have no interest in helping each other, then it becomes negative and counterproductive. Organizational goals and the bottom line are better served when the skills of the best employees are transferred through-out the organization through shared tips, training and communication. Great companies know that team spirit is built when personal goals align with company goals. Relationship building opportunities such as company picnics, lunchtime discussions, and fun time like company bowling or softball games will help the company come together as a team. When you can relax and have fun together you build trust.

Employees who share knowledge are much more effective than employees who don’t talk to anyone else. However, if positive conversations deteriorate into finger pointing during bad times, teammates won’t trust each other during the good times.

2. Coaches need to keep their teams focused on positive outcomes so that employees don’t get caught up in blame.

All good coaches have training camps and practice sessions to work through winning strategies and game plans. Yet many managers expect their employees to just show up on time and know what to do each day. If you spend more time training and communicating, your team is more likely to perform up to your expectations.

3. Strong teams have experience together, communicate well, and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Most people want to be on a team that has been together for a few years because the more you get to know your teammates strengths and weaknesses, the less critical and more accepting you become. Teams also perform better when leaders understand how each individual fits into the team. He or she doesn’t single out individuals for mistakes. A coach doesn’t say we lost because so and so fumbled, he says, “OK, let’s pull together and figure out a way to make sure we all learn from this mistake.”

4. Strong teams achieve common goals and share in the rewards.

Try to structure individual goals so that they help to accomplish company-wide goals. And, make sure company-wide goals will contribute to individual success. Most employees would rather win than lose, and so there is a natural motivation to work together to achieve common goals. When an individual sees how his or her performance contributes to the company’s overall success, this motivation becomes that much stronger. Share company wide success with everyone in structured bonuses.

5. Strong teams encourage, cheer and reward teamwork.

Smart team builders distribute work fairly and create opportunities for team members to work together occasionally. When you see teammates learning from each other, encourage them. If you see one-upmanship or negative competition in the group, make sure they understand that such behavior isn’t acceptable.

6. Strong teams solicit feedback and speak openly and honestly to the group.

There is a fine line between encouraging feedback and rewarding “tattle tales.” When feedback is provided in open forums, and individuals who are underperforming get help and encouragement rather than punishment, then everyone understands what is expected and hard feelings can be avoided. Practice these team-building behaviors and your company can avoid the pitfalls of feeling “Lost” when times get tough.


Faye Kelley
Vice President of Business Development and Midwest Representative
PolyJohn Enterprises
faye.kelley@polyjohn.com

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