In March, I will have in hand the third printing of my book, "The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success." This book contains the leadership model that I have implemented with clients since 1990. A lot of the book's content came about through my research and practical experience with teams. Most of us have had positive experiences with various teams in our lives. However, successful teams don't usually happen accidentally. A great deal of work is required to create and maintain effective teams.
Robert Bellah in his book, "Habits of the Heart" described Americans as highly individualistic. They prefer to contribute individually rather than in teams. In spite of that tendency, Americans with the proper preparations are hard to beat in teams both in sports and at work.
Marvin Weisbord in his book, "Productive Workplaces," suggests there are four conditions for team success. First team members should be interdependent and each person should have a stake in the outcome. The desired actions of team members and their impact on other employees must be clearly and honestly discussed on a regular basis. The contributions of teams should be rewarded financially or with other desired recognition in alignment with their level of success.
Second, the organization's leaders must be willing to take risks to improve the group's performance. The team leader along with team members should always be inventing experiments to continually improve work processes. Increasing autonomy of team members aligned with discussions of the impact on productivity and overall success of the project can lead to successful risks.
Third, all team members must agree to participate on the team. Sometimes, dedicated time for teambuilding with a skilled teambuilding professional is necessary to listen to the team members, address any issues and create an environment where commitment to the team performance is attractive and productive.
Finally, the influence of each team member must be equal. That is to say, everyone must have a say and be respected. Again, teambuilding sessions can help increase respectful communication with focus on simple communication techniques and the importance of personal accountability to each team member's success.
I am a big fan of well-performing teams. They coordinate a reduction of inefficiencies within a work group and across departments and shifts, enhance job satisfaction and contribute to the organization's bottomline. However, these outcomes are not achieved through magic. It takes a dedication of resources and structured use of employee's time. In group sessions we need to talk about how we talk, learn respectful ways to address disagreements and conflicts and share expectations in all directions.
Building teams can create a return many times the organization's investment. Once the team culture is designed, annual sessions to evaluate successes and concerns are valuable. Teams are not just nice to do. They are a business necessity.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.