Leading Inspiration: Q & A About Teamwork

Q: We all know that teamwork is very important to both the financial and climate bottom line of a company, but what does it really mean?

A: Great question. In 2001, Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson published their book, “When Teams Work Best – 6,000 Team Members and Leaders Tell What it Takes to Succeed.” This book was the result of 20 years of research with a wide variety of teams in the following industries: airline, auto, banking/finance, chemical, computer, distribution, education, food, healthcare, insurance, industrial equipment, law enforcement, legal, retail, sports, telecommunications and utilities. They found the following as the key ingredients to fostering great teamwork:

Team Member Factors

• Experience

Problem-solving ability

• Openness

• Supportiveness

• Action orientation

• Personal style

“Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy


Team Relationship Factors

• Constructive for both people

• Productive

• Mutual understanding

• Self-corrective

• Model to deal with contention

  • Commit to the relationship
  • Optimize safety
  • Narrow the discussion to one issue
  •  Neutralize defensiveness
  • Explain and echo each perspective
  • Change one behavior each
  • Track it

“A long dispute means that both parties are wrong.”– Voltaire


Team Problem Solving Factors

• Create a collaborative setting. Agree on principles for discussion; surface any assumptions and biases.

• Describe your team’s goal. What tangible, concrete outcome are you trying to achieve?

• Describe the energies (mental, physical, spiritual) that members of the team have focused on or should be focusing on.

• Is the team’s energy drained away from the goal? If so, where are we going and is this impacting the team’s success?

• What could help the team regain focus on the goal? What is your role in this?

“Search all the parks in all our cities. You’ll find no statues of committees.” – David Ogilvy


Team Leader Factors

• Focuses on the goal

  • Defines goal in a clear and elevating way
  • Does not play politics
  • Keeps the goal alive
  •  Helps individuals align their role and responsibilities with team goal
  •  Reinforces goal in fresh and exciting ways
  • If goal adjustment is needed, makes sure the team knows why

• Ensures a collaborative climate

  • Makes communication safe
  • Demands a collaborative approach
  • Rewards collaborative behavior
  • Guides the team problem-solving efforts
  • Manages ego and personal control needs

• Builds confidence

  • Gets results
  • Makes team members smart about key issues and facts
  • Exhibits trust by assigning responsibility
  • Is fair and impartial
  • Accentuates the positive
  •  Says “thank you”

• Demonstrates sufficient technical know-how

• Sets priorities

• Manages performances

  • Requires results: makes performance expectations clear
  • Reviews results: gives constructive feedback and resolves performance issues
  • Reward results: recognizes superior performance

“My responsibility is to get my 25 guys playing for the name on the front of their shirt and not the one on the back.” – Tommy Lasorda


Organizational Environment Factors

• Management practices

  • Clear direction and priorities
  •  Balances resources and demands
  • Establishes clear operating principles

• Structure and processes

  • Effective processes – fosters effective decision making, keeps people connected

Effective communication processes – aligns information, understanding and effort

• Systems

  • Necessity of reliable information
  • Relevant rewards drive required results
  • Standards lead to consistency and fairness

“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.”– Winston Churchill


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