a Thing of the Past
No matter where you
work these days, chances are your company is facing one or more
various challenges: a shrinking customer base, increasing
competition, lower profits, high turnover, etc. In today’s economy,
no one is immune from setbacks and obstacles. So what makes one
company able to rebound and recover in the midst of adversity while
other companies throw in the towel and give up? It all depends on
the company’s ability to work through the challenge as a team.
proliferation of team building advice available, the fact is that
most people don’t work together to accomplish something good for the
company. Even though many workers give lip service to the idea of
teamwork, they really still want to be seen as the hero – as the
Lone Ranger who tackles the problem, figures out a unique solution,
and gets all the credit. Compounding the problem is the economic
meltdown. Since many companies are cutting costs and laying people
off, no one wants to be seen as useless or dispensable. As a result,
they take every opportunity they get to stand out and appear more
knowledgeable or more skilled than anyone else.
While such an
approach may enable someone to stay on board for another pay cycle,
it does little to solve the company’s challenges. In order for true
problem solving to take place, everyone needs to put pride and ego
aside and truly work together to come up with viable solutions. In
order to do so without feeling threatened or vulnerable, instill the
following guidelines in your organization.
Get to know
If you don’t really
understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re good at,
you’ll never have the confidence and security to step outside
yourself and see things from a new perspective. You’ll be forever
stuck in the Lone Ranger mindset, because you’ll be afraid that
allowing someone else to assist you on a project will expose any
shortcomings you have. The fact is that those who are confident know
who they are and where their strengths lie. As a result, they are
able to let go and reach out to others for insight and help. Because
they know themselves individually, they are better team players –
playing to their strengths and getting assistance for the rest.
yourself the opportunity to get to know yourself. Do some periodic
self-reflections to keep yourself grounded. Look at yourself from a
work perspective as well as a family or personal one. Ask your
friends, family, and co-workers what they perceive as your strengths
and weaknesses so you can gain self-knowledge. Additionally, many
people find such things as meditation and reflection useful for
discovering their core interests and talents.
Know your role at
You were hired for your current role for a reason. What is that
role, and what was the reason you were chosen to do it? If your role
has changed since you were hired, figure out how and why it evolved.
Was it a deliberate re-focusing of your role, or did it “just
happen”? Also look at how your identified strengths help you fulfill
your role to the company.
Realize, too, that
other people have their roles. There’s a natural hierarchy of the
company or team, and you need to respect that. Think of the team or
company as a system. A more efficient system will get better
results; therefore, you need to let each part of the system do its
role in order for the system to run smoothly. So if you’re not “the
computer guy,” don’t pretend that you are. Defer to someone who is
adept at that role so you don’t slow down progress or make things
Deferring to others
can be hard, especially when you need to defer to a junior staffer.
After all, no one wants to give up their power. But you’ll have
better results when you do. For example, in a healthcare-focused
company, the boss may be more familiar with broader trends of the
healthcare industry, but the junior staff may be more familiar with
details of cardiology drugs, doctor reimbursement guidelines, etc.
In this case, the junior staff provides information to supplement or
guide the experts. That’s how working together and using everyone’s
strengths can solve problems.
Be open to
No matter what
challenge your company is facing, bringing everyone together for a
brainstorming session is sure to help. The key to an effective
brainstorming session is to instill a sense of “blue sky thinking.”
In other words, no idea is dumb, off limits, or too crazy to voice.
Use a whiteboard to record all the suggestions and to map out how
you’ll get from Point A to Point B. Start with the big ideas, pick a
few that make sense, and then focus them down. As long as you keep
the environment positive and light-hearted, people will be eager to
participate and offer their ideas.
exercises to get people engaged:
meetings or group retreats, get everyone to participate in some sort
of group activity/exercise. Make sure everyone takes on a role and
participates. For example, you can put people together in groups of
five or six and give them the task of building a paper airplane.
They have to design it, measure the distance it travels, and give it
a marketing pitch. The group then has to divide up the labor and
come together at the end to perform a cohesive discussion of their
The goal of any
exercise like this is to get people working together and tackling
something new. Whatever the exercise is, it should be irrelevant to
the current challenge your company is trying to solve. You want
people shifting their perspective so they can see problems in a new
light. Additionally, instruct people to take on roles they normally
wouldn’t do. So in our paper airplane example, perhaps the
accountant is responsible for the marketing campaign and the
salesperson must take on a design and product development role. This
enables people to understand the complexity of other roles and helps
them see routine things in a new way.
Maintain a sense of
play at work:
economic times, it can be difficult to stay positive at work.
However, if you want to be a lean, mean, problem solving machine,
that is exactly what you must do. Negativity and pessimism are
self-fulfilling and will doom any plans to failure. Therefore, keep
a joyful mindset and choose to look at situations in a positive way.
If you have some negative nay-sayers who are bringing the group
down, talk with them to see if you can help them change their
attitude, as their outlook and behaviors affect the whole company.
If they won’t or can’t change, then it’s time for management to
decide if they’re the type of people who can contribute to the
company’s overall success.
Use Your Team to
When people take
the time to shift their perspective about themselves and those they
work with, everyone can come together for effective problem solving.
So stop giving lip service to the concept of team building. Take a
proactive approach to getting everyone on the same page and engaged
in solving the company’s toughest problems. When you do, no problem
will be unsolvable, and you’ll have a dedicated and engaged
workforce that takes the company to new levels of success.
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