I like the analogy that compares an organization’s staff to a sports team. You have a coach (an owner, manager, or supervisor). You have players/team members (the staff). You have a common goal (winning the “game”; game defined as whatever your goal is—be it increasing sales, improving some process, or achieving better customer satisfaction). You have a set of rules (think of the myriad regulations, billing/reimbursements requirements, etc.). And you work toward that shared, common goal together; team members supporting each other to “win.”
If you think of staff and employees as a team, it makes sense to put effort into team building. Team building, at least in a business organization, is defined as “creating a team to work together toward a specific, common goal which is designed to enhance some aspect or improve some outcome within the business.” The team works together toward that goal and each team member contributes their time and talents for a better outcome. Managers (and coaches, if you want to go back to the sports team analogy) realize that a team that works well together can accomplish far more than any individual and often even better than the sum of what all the individual members could accomplish on their own. In other words, utilizing a team approach gets more done with better results!
Benefits of teamwork in the workplace include:
- Better cooperation and collaboration
- Better communication
- “Happier” employees with a higher level of job satisfaction, resulting in employee retention
- Increased/improved productivity
- Improved opportunities for mentoring between staff members
- Loyalty to fellow employees, bosses and supervisors, and the overall business organization
Team building, therefore, is a worthwhile activity in just about any business. Team building activities are those things you do to develop, strengthen, encourage, and motivate the team. These activities can range from planned staff retreats with guest speakers and formal exercises to promote team building to simpler meetings designed to improve communication within the workplace. They also include more informal activities designed to encourage staff to work together. Something as simple as a regular group lunch or after work mixer can go a long way toward helping staff members form bonds, relate to each other, and work together more effectively and efficiently.
One creative DME owner I talked to has established what he calls a “team-oriented management model”. He has teams for several different priority projects and allows the teams wide latitude to solve problems, improve productivity, increase sales, and even workshop new ideas. These teams work together on the projects and present their findings at regularly scheduled all-staff meetings. Each team is tasked with finding practical solutions and implementing them within the overall organization. The owner calls the program a “win/win” because everyone is happier and more engaged. The staff feels like they have created the solutions together as a team and feel pride in ownership. Results are very positive and that particular organization has never had a problem that a team couldn’t find a solution to and resolve.
So, how do you build an effective team? What characteristics should you look for in teams in your organization? There is a lot of material on the internet and plenty of good resources in books, articles, and educational programs. The material varies a bit, but there are some common threads. Here’s a list of traits that effective teams all have, culled from several different resources. Think of this list as The Seven Habits of Effective Teams:
- Communication is the key to a team’s success.
- All individual team members are highly valued and their opinions are respected.
- Team members work to find group consensus and put out a unified message.
- Teams have a defined methodology for how they come to consensus and a process to resolve problems and conflicts within the team.
- Quality Improvement is practiced continuously within the team. Teams are always ready to tweak their processes based on the principles of QI.
- Creativity and “thinking outside the box” are strongly encouraged.
- The team takes responsibility for some project or aspect of the business and is held accountable as a team for that area of the business.
Staff wants to succeed both individually as a person and also as an organization. Knowing that we all are working toward some common goal automatically makes us teammates. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little. Together, we can do so much”. Encourage staff to work together and do everything you can to promote team building within your organization.