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There is an "E" in team ... in fact there's 5

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘there is no ‘I’ in team” bandied about by well-meaning team leaders, supervisors and managers? If you’re like me the first couple times you heard it was probably during an organization ‘pep talk’ and, if you’re like me, you would have probably done a mental fist pump to aptly match the physical fist pump of the person sitting next to you.

Yes! We’re a team and only working together, like a well-oiled and well-tuned engine can we achieve, advance and accomplish. The first few times it sounded right. In fact, when we got back to the daily grind for the first few weeks it felt right.

There is no I in Team! Woohoo!

Then the drudgery of our daily responsibilities set in and combined with the cynical disillusionment of our many of our co-workers we found ourselves and our team right back where we started. In fact, some might argue we became worse for it. Having glimpsed the holy grail of “team synergy” serves only to scrape against the exposed nerve of our complacency and even as we yearn for that synergy once again, we sink into despair as it disappears on the horizon.

There are 5 things leaders can do to help reignite team synergy.

  1. Empowerment – the successful team leader’s attitude is neither autocratic nor dictatorial. Instead, she allows her team members the flexibility to operate within a set of clearly defined and measurable parameters that they have had input into developing. When a person knows what is required of them and are given a degree of autonomy to meet that requirement they will generally take ownership of those duties. That person is further empowered if they have had input into those requirements and how they are to complete them. You can about some more benefits here.

  2. Expression – the successful team leader fosters expression of problems and concerns in the team. When team members are given an environment where they can safely express their problems and concerns related to the team activity their productivity increases. Emily Heard and William Miller in an article titled Effective Code Standards on Raising Concerns and Retaliation notes that “Developing and implementing effective code standards on raising concerns and retaliation can help demonstrate that an organization values open communication, and is an important step in laying the foundation for an open and non-retaliatory workplace.” Read the full article here.

  3. Environment – the successful team leader helps each team member to understand the environment in which they work. This includes an understanding of the impact of their job as it relates to team mission and how that fits into the objectives of the organization. This gives team members a ‘sense of mission’ and helps them connect what they do directly to the organization’s success. In fact, ‘88% of staff with high commitment to organizational goals said it improved their job performance (MCA/MORI Benchmark, 2000).’

  4. Experimentation – the successful team leader encourages team members to innovate by stoking their creativity. This is not as easy as it sounds because the team leader must balance the team’s creativity with the organization’s need to produce an excellent product or service in a timely manner. Nevertheless, there are strategies the team leader can employ to help nurture and grow team creativity. Read this excellent article by Mike Brown at TalentCulture about how to make your team more creative here.

  5. Education– the successful team leader encourages lifelong learning for all team members. Sir Richard Branson said ‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’ Make no mistake, this is quite literally a tightrope to traverse and there will always be the team member who will leave as a result of feeling they are qualified for other jobs nevertheless consider this – not training and educating team members will pose a much higher risk to the work of the organization, its reputation and goodwill so if the worst that can happen is that the team member leaves and others must work a little harder in the aftermath to pick up the slack is it not worth the effort?

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