Insurance Industry News from ProgramBusiness.comTeam Building
Here are eight timeless principles that apply to building teams in the workplace:
Make sure that the team comes first. Just ask the New England Patriots. We’ve all seen sports teams loaded with superstars that don’t win the big games because they’re more focused on individual performance than the collective effort. A partner or worker with a “me first “attitude can work elsewhere. This team stuff isn’t easy and it’s not for everyone!
Engage in win/win thinking. Whether good or bad, right or wrong, Americans are so competitive by nature that winning at all cost seems perfectly acceptable. Sucking energy from others so that you can succeed simply won’t work in a team environment. In The Case Against Competition, Alfred Cohen stresses that the goal of a team must be cooperation, rather than competition; we can compete with those outside the team, but not within it.
Be clear about team commitments up front. Assuming that all team members will play by the same rules that you do is guaranteed to produce failure and resentment. Define mutual rules, commitments, values, or understandings through dialogue, and consensus; then put them in writing.
Treat all team members with equal respect. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, graduate students were able to define with 90% accuracy the success of a marriage by watching a couple during conflict for less than three minutes. The key: Whether one party was condescending toward the other, or treated them as an equal who simply disagreed. Although you’d never treat a sibling or friend as lesser than you because they have a lower title or earn less, this is too often the case in business environments.
Be sure that your team is clear about its direction. All team members must be on the same page. For example, when consulting with an insurance agency, we asked each staff member to define the most important thing they did and got a wide variety of answers. However, when I asked the owner, he replied: “The most important thing I do every day is make other people feel good about themselves — by finding the good in them. The point is, when they feel this way, they’ll buy from you or work hard for you. Once all the agency employees learned to follow this principle, they became a team going in the same direction.
Remember the Rule of Seven. Anthropological studies of groups, from hunter-gatherers to military organizations, have shown that it’s very difficult to create a cohesive team with more than seven members. According to Tom Peters, no division of an organization should have more than 50 people broken down into seven groups of seven. This tracks with the fundamentals of memory and retention. Decades ago, Ma Bell created seven-digit phone numbers because the human mind finds it hard to manage more than seven inputs at a time.
Minimize or eliminate dysfunction and drama on teams. Begin by addressing fears and concerns up front. For example, if existing team members are concerned that the new folks won’t play by the same set of rules, reduce any propensity to do so by identifying the rules and asking them if they have any concerns about them. At the same time, these new people might fear that the reluctance of existing team members to change might lead them to ignore the best practices that new members have developed. Eliminate these fears by agreeing that best practices, not the existing way of doing things, will govern.
Finally, reinforce and reward team conduct. If the team is hitting home runs, make sure to celebrate them. If there are challenges, make it safe for people to come forward with them by inviting them to do so<Click for the whole story...