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.
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.
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.
A colleague of mine manages a high-tech team. She was lamenting an experience trying to motivate a team member, who often works from home. The team was growing, office space was tight, and one of the only offices with four walls and a door belonged to this team member. The manager asked the team member if he would give up his rarely used office to another team member who would benefit from the added space and privacy.
IMAGINE CONDUCTING this experiment. Put five monkeys in a cage with a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling. Underneath the bananas, place a ladder just tall enough to reach them. Then any time one of the monkeys tries to climb the ladder, spray the entire cage with cold water. Quickly, the monkeys will learn to avoid the ladder and abandon their quest for the bananas.
Someone somewhere once said, “Honesty is always the best policy.” Really? Have you ever thought through the implications of that statement?
Ever had a person say something to you that was hurtful, unkind, or offensive? You ask them why they would say something like that, and they answer, “I’m just being honest!” You probably want to respond, “Well, lie a little!”