Improving Teamwork Is Central to Organizational Health

teamwork

“Talent wins games, but teamwork wins Championships”

– Michael Jordan

5 KEY BEHAVIORS ARE AT THE HEART OF ANY GREAT TEAM

Team dynamics are an important predictor of organizational health. Teams that work well together perform better (and they are more fun to be a part of). To achieve this advantage, teams must dedicate effort towards mastering the following five specific behaviors.

1. Focusing on Achieving Collective Results

Why do we need teams in the first place? Because teams can accomplish things that individuals on their own can’t. So the ultimate measure of success for any team is the results it produces. But what often gets in the way?

2. Holding One Another Accountable

In most cases, a team will reach its goals only when everyone does his or her job. Therefore, our ability to achieve collective results is reliant not only on our own efforts but also on the efforts of others. Then it should naturally follow that it is the responsibility of every member of the team to push every other member of the team to do his or her best. So even though we know we are relying on each other, why can it be so uncomfortable for peers to hold each other accountable?

3. Committing to Decisions

There is one simple concept that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to holding another person accountable for something…did the parties commit to the decision in the first place? If we have not established clarity around our shared expectations and gained agreement on our respective roles and responsibilities, then the idea that we would be willing to hold each other accountable is absurd. If committing to decisions about direction and priorities is a precursor to expecting people to put pressure on their peers to perform, why don’t more teams do it?

4. Engaging in Conflict Around Ideas

There is a saying that people must “weigh in to buy in.” If we are going to ask all members of a team to truly commit to a shared vision, then we need to be darn sure we get all the ideas (and emotions) out on the table. And the only way to make sure that all voices are heard is by having the team be collectively willing to engage in healthy and respectful conflict around ideas. When we logically know it’s a good idea to discuss different ideas and points of views, why is this an area where so many teams struggle?

5. Building Trust With One Another

Putting your own ideas out there, especially when they go against the direction of “bolder” personalities or the group as a whole, can be a difficult thing. When team members are fearful of attacks or uncertain about how others will respond, there’s a natural tendency to hold back and just stay quiet; to protect oneself and not show vulnerability. But there is one key element that enables teams to push past the typical discomfort of associated with conflict: it’s called “trust.” According to Webster’s dictionary, one definition of trust is the belief that someone is good or honest. Applying this definition to our purposes here, we can say that trust is the belief that my team mates are good, honest and ultimately have the best of intentions. When teams dedicate focused effort on learning to be vulnerable with each other, the result is a domino effect that enables the team to….

  • Build Trust with One Another, which enables the team to…
  • Engage in Conflict Around Ideas, which enables the team to…
  • Commit to Decisions, which enables the team to…
  • Hold One Another Accountable, which enables the team to…
  • Focus on Collective Results, which enables the team to…

ACHIEVE COLLECTIVE RESULTS!

TEAM BEHAVIORS and LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

Integris works with leadership experts Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner to liberate the leader in all people. Our approach to leadership development is based on more than 30 years of research that shows that effective leaders do these five specific things more frequently than their less-effective counterparts:

the five practices of exemplary leadership® model

I mention these here to highlight the connection between these Leadership Practices and the Team Behaviors I’ve detailed above. Here are some examples of how these two models intersect (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • When leaders align their actions with shared values and set a personal example of what they expect from others (what we call “Modeling the Way”), others on the team are more likely to follow suit and also start to become more open and trusting.
  • When leaders put a priority on “Inspiring a Shared Vision” based on common aspirations, it pushes everyone on the team to commit to the decisions the group has made.
  • When leaders make it a priority to “Challenge the Process” and search for innovative ways to change, grow and improve, the team is motivated to share their opinions and engage in robust dialog around a full range of ideas.
  • When leaders “Enable Others to Act” by promoting cooperative goals and sharing power and discretion, individual team members recognize that it’s up to everyone to support each other and hold each other accountable for what’s been agreed upon.
  • When leaders “Encourage the Heart” by showing appreciation and celebrating team victories, it serves to focus all team members on achieving collective results.

TEAM BEHAVIORS and OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Integris embraces Lean Thinking and Six Sigma concepts to help clients drive higher levels of operational effectiveness and efficiency. Our approach to Operational Excellence is built around four pillars that have proven to guide meaningful cultural transformation…

  • Enterprise Alignment
  • Customer Focus
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Intentional Culture

I mention these here to highlight the connection between these Operational Excellence Pillars and the Team Behaviors I’ve detailed above. Here are some examples of how these two models intersect (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • When organizations establish clear direction, goals and success measures (what we call “Enterprise Alignment”), they are giving teams and team members what they need to focus on collective results.
  • When organizations make “Customer Focus” a top priority and delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction is paramount, they invite all team members (including front-line workers) to share their ideas about how work processes should be designed.
  • When organizations believe that they can always do better, they establish the value of “Continuous Improvement.” And when everyone in the organization knows that problems are opportunities to learn, it helps give team members the encouragement and support they need to establish accountability to themselves and each other.
  • When organizations decide to be “Intentional” about building the “Culture” they want, they invest in creating a shared language around how teams should interact.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, most organizations are looking to achieve three key outcomes:

  • Engaged Employees
  • Delighted Customers
  • Satisfied Shareholders

There are of course many factors that contribute to these goals. But none are more critical than the three areas of Team Behaviors, Leadership Practices and Operational Excellence. If your organization is looking for additional fuel on its journey toward Organizational Health, broadly embracing the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team will be an important step!

PROLOGUE: Integris was founded for the purpose of helping clients build more healthy organizations. Our goal always is to increase “the good” (trust, collaboration, engagement, efficiency, etc.) while simultaneously decreasing “the bad” (gossip, politics, infighting, etc.). Through all our research and hands-on experience, we know that of all the factors that contribute to organizational health, three rise to the top: Leadership Practices, Team Behaviors and Operational Excellence.

About The Author

Brett CooBrett Cooperper is Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Integris Performance Advisors.  For over 15 years Brett has helped public and private organizations achieve outcomes-based objectives such as improving measurable leadership behaviors, enhancing customer experience, increasing workforce engagement and improving financial results.Brett earned an MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University. He is a frequent speaker on topics relating to business change and performance excellence. Profile

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1 COMMENTS

  1. Jim
    July 22, 2016 10:13

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!