Recently, I have been engaged with a few organizations and teams who are struggling to build good working environments. We have all heard the adage ‘team work makes the dream work’ and this most certainly is true. Most of us have been members of teams and organizations that were, in a word, dysfunctional. No one was happy. Everyone was competing for recognition, visibility, power, and empowerment. It was a miserable experience – for everyone. And, I am amazed at how often I stumble into organizations who are stymied by this dysfunction; and the leaders have no clue how to navigate out of the situation which they have created!
There are numerous books which highlight tips on how to create powerful, synergistic teams and cultures. One I particularly like is Building an Empire – which amazingly focuses on building a network marketing business. YET – the tips are relevant for all businesses and teams….whether these are non-profit organizations, schools, or entrepreneurial ventures. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
1. Everyone needs to feel a part of something greater than themselves. My definition of alignment is when we love what we do, we are good at it, and most importantly it is tied to something greater than ourselves. This ‘greater good’ can be our mission, our purpose, or even our ‘calling’. Yet, when we are aligned – as a team – it is even more powerful. We can help build this awareness and foster alignment through creating a common Facebook page or website to share ideas, having team events to engage everyone and rally the troops, and even having team meetings to share successes and have group training. None of this is rocket science….yet, the key is to tie this to something greater than oneself.
2. Everyone wants to feel they belong. There is nothing worse than being ‘left out’ and not feeling a pride of ownership or belonging on the team. There are many ways to foster this sense of belonging….profit sharing, having a voice into the strategy, or just feeling like their input and involvement matters. When folks are not included – in any aspect of a team effort – whether this is a training event or a celebratory dinner – they become dejected. Now, please know that folks may not always participate; yet, just giving them the option is the key point.
3. Having inspiration from every member of the team is so important. Inspiration does NOT have to come solely from the top. It is very powerful to have team members inspiring one another. It is equally powerful to have accountability come from ALL members of the team – not just from the leader. Group accountability can produce alchemy on a team.
4. Recognition has been proven to be more motivating than money. The secret key is to meet people where they are. Not everyone wants their name in lights. Some want personal notes of encouragement and ‘atta boys’ or a private voice mail offering support. Knowing what is right for each person is key; then give them what they need and want…..early and often.
5. Our team members need support – in all ways and at all times. Some need the B12 shot of encouragement. Some need support in the form of ‘business therapy’ and listening to their issues and offering advice. Yet, one things is for sure – we are all in the human condition and we need to realize this and be kind to one another…. in business and in life.
6. The final thought to offer is to consider pulling the team together for a charitable cause which everyone can support. In my prior team leadership roles, we always had at least one team outing a quarter to focus on those less fortunate. We hosted Ronald McDonald House dinners, offered hours of soup kitchen volunteering, and even helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity. There is nothing more humbling and unifying than to be in service to others.
Building a team, and ultimately an organizational culture, is a never ending effort. It can erode overnight if the team is not built on a solid foundation. Yet, when the teams’ foundation is anchored by cornerstones which are collectively defined and embraced values- and the team is aligned around a common mission supporting a ‘greater good’….whew….it does not get much better than that!