Teamwork and team building are increasingly seen as crucial to organizational performance, whether we are talking about a business, an athletic competition, a family, or just two workers coordinating their efforts. More books are written about team building than any other aspect of organization development. Yet it is still not entirely clear what the essence of teamwork is. One aspect is clearly that every member must perform some role that is relevant to what the group is trying to do.
Getting team chemistry right is essential to high performance. But that’s not news, so let’s get to the hard part. How can you tell if someone will make a good team member? The explosion of big data and analytical tools has not yet produced much good insight on how to staff and manage high-performance teams.
Where do you see yourself at 95? That is not an unreasonable question these days. Peter Drucker lived until eight days before his 96th birthday, in 2005, and he was productive until nearly the end of his life. When I interviewed him at the Drucker Archives in Claremont, California, in April 2005, I brought up the notion of his being such an important role model to 21st-century knowledge workers.
Why do so many front-line people start their jobs energized and eager to contribute, only to wind up with chronic job frustration?
If you listen to front-line team members for any length of time, you hear certain themes again and again. They do not feel valued or heard by their organizations, and that leaves them feeling powerless. Having seen so many management initiatives fail, they meet change efforts and new ideas with skepticism if not downright cynicism. They feel “one-down” and deprived of the privilege and perks enjoyed by others in the organization.
Everyone knows that we are in a hurry. Why else would drive-through, fast food restaurants now have two lanes? Why else would parishioners be tweeting their pastors during the sermon with their questions? No one wants to wait for anything–not even 30 days for a more powerful vocabulary. There is, after all, so much to do in so little time.
Fostering the formation of positive relationships in organizations is a topic that has been well examined. For example, a search for the phrase “relationships at work” on Amazon.com results in approximately 100,000 books. Forming close friendships at work, it has been found, tends to enhance and increase productivity and performance (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001; Dutton, 2003; Lawler, 2003).
A prominent business magazine hires a journalist to write about the chief executive of a major corporation. The man has been at the helm for several years and is considered highly effective. The journalist submits an excellent piece, capturing the very spirit of the man’s managerial style. The magazine rejects it–not exciting enough, no hype. Yet the company has just broken profit records for its industry.
During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln was both greatly respected and greatly reviled. Blamed for causing the nation to plunge into civil war, he became the President people loved to hate. Those who opposed his views regarding the war and slavery as well as his efforts to keep the nation united were vocal and uninhibited in denouncing him.