Teamwork is Key to Success

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD

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An employee is usually rated for salary increases and promotions on the basis of individual achievement; in some organizations little credit is given for collaboration and cooperative effort as a team member. Thus, these organizations foster the perception that individual achievement is the pinnacle of accomplishment. To be in the spotlight, prepared to succeed or fail on your own, has become a cherished ideal. In reality, however, few people work alone; they depend heavily on the cooperation of others to accomplish tasks and reach their goals, and competing rather than collaborating with co-workers holds everybody back.

In the finest companies, much gets done without dazzle or hype by teams of people pulling together. “We” and “our” replace “I” and “my. ” The team is the star; its leader is the articulator and sponsor of the vision that emerges from the team’s collaboration.

Several factors stand out in the team concept: the task, mitigating issues, leader responsibility, and the antidote.

The task is boss, the driving force that dictates who does what, when and how. To determine the best procedures for accomplishing a task, the team leader conducts a planning meeting in the form of a brainstorming session. Once this has been done, roles and responsibilities need to be determined. To ensure full commitment and full-fledged involvement, ask for volunteers, and make sure all team members accept who is doing what.

The most difficult mitigating issues are mistrust and competition. Competition assumes many disguises, the major one being disagreement on procedure. Most people do not acknowledge how strong their competitive feelings are; they rationalize their destructive feedback as ‘honest criticism. ’ Other people, who fear the consequences of speaking out, may sabotage the task by submitting sloppy, incomplete, or late work. Mistrust is manifested when people become defensive and protecting themselves becomes their primary concern.

It is the team leader’s responsibility to manage mitigating issues. If the team leader makes decisions behind closed doors and based on individual input, the integrity of the team is compromised. Any issue brought to the leader’s attention needs to be discussed and resolved in team meetings. Each issue needs to be evaluated on the basis of the task and needs of the entire group. Keeping the focus on the task reinforces the team concept that ‘the task is boss’ and that individual success can be realized only through team success.

The antidote is commitment. If only one person is not committed to the task, the team may not be able to weather the difficulties that inevitably arise. Effective team leaders are committed to teamwork because they know it improves corporate performance. Collaboration generates the best ideas because it taps into the souls and minds of employees and makes them see themselves as valued contributors.

When people are committed, they do a little bit extra. They look for ways to help one another. Realizing that the ‘task is boss, ’ they are willing to do what it takes to get the task done. Committed people realize that team cooperation is the way to achieve their own individual goals and achieve person success.

Guidelines for Team Meetings:
-Nothing said in the discussion will be used against anyone later.
-Statements will focus on work. For example: “When I receive reports late, I need to either stay late to meet my deadline or turn it in late. If I receive the report on time, both these problems would be solved. ”
-NO name-calling or personal accusations (“You are a lazy, pig-headed, domineering slob. ”) will be allowed.
-All ideas will be given a fair hearing before it is decided how to proceed.

Guidelines for Individuals:
-I share equal responsibility for the outcome of this meeting.
-I will share my opinions and beliefs.
-I will respect everyone’s opinions and beliefs as equally important and valid.
-I will request what I need and want from team members.
-I will commit myself to working as a full-fledged member of the team.
-I will negotiate with team members instead of making arbitrary and singular decisions.

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Entrepreneur, personal and professional Life Coach has 25 years experience. She has consulted to Fortune 500 CEO’s, Vice Presidents, business owners and people of all walks of life.


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