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  • Writer's pictureThe HR Guy

The HR Guy Answers: Teamwork Culture

My name is Russell Lookadoo, President and Chief Strategist for HRchitecture. I am the HR guy for small business. My firm exists to leverage my expertise and experience in Human Resources so that the small business owner can achieve their dreams though effective use of their team.

Today let’s to talk about teamwork. Teamwork always rises to a topic of discussion during the March madness season. America is fascinated by these college kids as exhibit good and bad teamwork as well as good and bad sportsmanship in fighting to be national champions in college basketball.

In the business world teamwork is an intangible that many companies strive to achieve. “We are a team here!” they say.

Values are very important part of running a business. Almost without exception teamwork, collaboration or cooperation is a key part of the “How” or values statement.

Let's talk about what teamwork really is and how a team is formed Also how teamwork can be destroyed unintentional with well-meaning HR programs and practices.

A “team” is a small group of people with complementary skills that are committed to a common purpose, set of goals and approach for which they hold each other mutually accountable. A team is not just a group of people who wear the same jersey or draw a paycheck from a common source.

Leaders must understand that all teams go through a predictable cycle of development.

  • “Forming”. As the team comes together for the first time, they go through the forming phase. They learn each other's strengths and weaknesses and they begin to understand what drives each other.

  • “Norming”. Once a common understanding is established and adopted the team begins to build rhythm work together and learn to trust and depend on each other. All is fun and progress is being made.

  • “Storming”. In this phase conflict occurs as individuals are jockeying to be the leader or vie for their roles and begin to pick on the weaknesses of others. Storming often begins when there is a change in personnel on the team or a disappointment occurs.

  • “Performing”. All the storms are over, and everything is fantastic. Team members are contributing their best efforts, working together and are winning.

Unfortunately this is not a predictable linear process. Teams often go from performing back to norming over to storming back to forming finally returning to performing. The vacillation is often based on external events. In basketball this in occur this can occur when a major injury occurs to a key player or player fouls out causing them to lose effective teamwork.

Leaders have to adapt their style depending on what phase the team is experiencing:

  • Forming: Leadership exerts a lot of direction, instruction and structure.

  • Norming: Leadership steps back and provides guidance and provide external observations avoiding singling out individuals.

  • Storming: Leadership steps in to help redefine roles, work through conflict bringing the team back together.

  • Performing: Leadership steps back and enjoys the fruits of teamwork.

I have clients who espouse the value of teamwork but also espouse the value of a meritocracy where only individual pay for performance is rewarded. Meritocracy and Teamwork principles can sometimes come in conflict if recognition and reward programs are not carefully crafted.

How many times have you gone into a retail situation and salesperson #1 person speaks and if ask a salesperson #2 a question the initial salesperson literally jumps in front of them to make sure the second salesperson isn't stealing the sale? On the other hand an organization to focused on teamwork and employees do not feel personally accountable.

Human Resources system such as interviewing and selection, recognition and reward, progressive discipline and even termination have to carefully address the teamwork value. Leadership needs to focus on teamwork as a value in each and every communication and not just give it lip service.

As examples:

  1. Does the interview process heavily involved other members of the team in the interview or does the leader select the employee without involving the team members?

  2. Are incentives and recognition programs 100% individual focused or does they include an element for teamwork handoffs and support?

  3. Do disciplinary and progressive discipline programs site is a value excellent teamwork or the absence of teamwork when individuals act like vampires and compete internally to the detriment of the customer?

As an example, incentive programs can be designed to include a team performance threshold or multiplier to augment the individual awards thus balancing the two principles.

If I can be of assistance helping you review and refine your HR processes to reflect the values that you feel are vital to the success of your company, please contact me and I can create answers customized for your business.

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