‘Workplace tips for effective teamwork’

Published by rudy Date posted on April 12, 2009

ONCE AGAIN summer is upon us. Typically, companies take advantage of the season to build and renew teams at all levels of the company, executive teams, functional- and cross-functional team building. Then we have all sorts of activities, high ropes, low ropes, indoor and outdoor.

In this economic slowdown, businesses have not been deterred from pursuing their favorite intervention. They have spiced up the annual summer picnic with team games and activities.

Rightfully so, for in our country known for its natural beauty and the talent and artistry of our people, unity of mind and purpose remains an elusive dream. We continue in our companies, politics, schools and associations to hold on to the “island mentality.”
We have allowed our geography and our regional groupings to define our orientations. It is a joy, therefore, to note that enterprises today never cease to strive towards strong and empowered teams.

In my practice, I have witnessed the two extremes, dysfunctional teams, causing widespread burnout crisis and strong, empowered teams with inspired performers delivering excellent results.

We have also marked the difference in the atmosphere when a burnt out team that is emotionally exhausted and relationships are depersonalized is transformed into a team that enables its members to achieve a sense of flow. A flow state allows a team to experience the 4 Cs of commitment, challenge, control and connection.

We all know the stages of team building of Bion’s form, storm, norm and perform. But what are the essential ingredients of teamwork? In organization development we always start with a diagnosis of strengths and improvement areas.

We also have the strong belief that improvement areas (or weaknesses in plain language) provide the energy to move toward positive action.

I have gone through the literature on teams. I like best the 8 Gems of Teamwork that our partner Eagle’s Flight International from Guelph, Canada have selected as core elements. Let me explain why.

The first gem is shared goals. Shared goals are the glue that gives teams a sense of shared mission. It also requires clarification in terms of vision and strategies to achieve goals.

The second gem is shared leadership. While teams may have formal leaders, these leaders recognize the value of sharing responsibility for task leadership.

They are willing to develop team members so together they can sustain team relationships and ever increasing productivity.

The third gem is clarity of roles. Roles provide the team member a sense of meaning and worth. It is the piece in the team mosaic that a member is expected to perform with precision and excellence.

Many teams find that time spent clarifying roles and responsibilities are a great enabler in going for speed and quality of work.

Clarity of roles contributes to quality decisions, the fourth gem. How often has a dominant member of a team misled the whole team to arrive at a wrong or substandard decision?

Most of us may recall watching the training film on “The Abilene Paradox.” Quality decisions are arrived at when members listen empathically to one another and communicate with clarity. It is arriving at a consensus after hearing out each others views.

The fifth gem is resolution of conflict. Conflicts are regular fare to healthy teams. They address or resolve conflicts quickly and completely, not allowing them to hinder or dictate the pace of the team process.

They become the springboard that allows the team to execute plans with greater care and sensitivity.

The sixth gem is enthusiasm and commitment. Enthusiasm is contagious and infectious. It generates a euphoric state that includes a sense of accomplishment, an outflowing of concern and consideration for others. It is an empowering trait that gives the team the energy to exceed performance.

The seventh gem of teamwork is trust. Trust is the essential ingredient for teamwork. Trust builds on credibility, transparency and the absence of self-defeating hidden agendas. It is the atmosphere that takes time to build but easy to destroy.

The eighth gem that is most unique to Eagle’s Flight is temporary suppression of the ego. The hurt or wounded ego causes attachment to ideas, actions or decisions. This is most detrimental to teamwork.

On the other hand the ability to “empty” oneself to receive without bias and prejudice the idea of the other person causes synergy to flow. At the end it no longer matters whether one is given credit for the idea. The team is capable of seeing and experiencing the unity in diversity that is most precious to teams.

Are these gems, no matter how valuable everything about teams? I am a great believer that teams can engage in continuous improvement.

In fact, we have begun to certify teams as they move from one stage of maturity to another. This means that team building has grown into team management. It is an all season, nonstop intervention, that develops and multiplies team leaders.

The empowered team moves from stage one of developing its vision, mission and goals to stage two that enables greater, faster problem-solving. Every team member is trained and competent in problem solving and decision-making.

Finally stage 3, where the team becomes capable of doing business process improvement, gains powerful insights from customers and capable of reinventing its processes to constantly add value. Meantime, my wish is for your team-building activity to be fun and productive. –Tita Datu Puangco, Contributor

(The author is CEO and chair of Ancilla Enterprise Development Consulting. Send feedback through e-mail to advice@ancillaedc.com . ph or fax to 892-2902.)

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