The “I” in “Team”: How Managers Can Help Build a Better Culture

Getting people to work well together is one of the most difficult aspects of business. That said, a Company is only as effective as its smallest unit, and “teams” often take that spot. The key to improving the effectiveness of teams is creating a culture where teamwork is valued, and most of that comes from leadership. Here are a few tips for creating a culture that rewards teamwork.

Empower Teams

Where possible, give teams the power to run themselves. Allow them to set their own goals, hold themselves accountable, measure their own progress to keep employees motivated. Make them masters of their own destiny; when they feel they have a say in the process, they will be more motivated to participate, and they will often accept responsibility more readily. Let them seek mediation further up the chain if they need it, but give them the tools they need to tackle the job at hand by themselves. After all, isn’t the point of a team to distribute work to those who can do it best?

Play by the Same Rules

One of the most endearing attributes of leaders is when they show solidarity to the crew by subjecting themselves to the same difficulties and restrictions. It’s hard to sympathize with the big boss who gets to fly around the country on a private jet. Ever seen the scene in Glory where Matthew Broderick rips up his paycheck? Showing your teams that you aren’t above the rules will do more to motivate them than anything else. Play fair, hold yourself accountable, and let them know they are each as valuable as every other link in the chain. A leader loyal to his subordinates will cultivate loyalty in return.

Don’t Support Dictators

Sometimes your immediate subordinate is above the team, and that may leave you with a different problem. Often, employees that are lower on the totem pole find themselves on the receiving end of some pretty brutal punishment. If they feel like management is listening, they may come to you to report unsportsmanlike conduct from their superior. Take comments like this seriously. It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch.

If your manager is treating his employees worse than you treat him, then he’s breaking the previous rule. The only team solidarity you will be creating in that environment is one that unites in resenting the manager, i.e., the only things being produced will be memes that mock the despot. They will honor you for holding the manager accountable, and even if the claims are exaggerated or unfounded, they will feel reassured that you were willing to listen.

Treat People Like People

We call them “human resources,” but they are not disposable. Don’t treat your employees like something you use up and toss out. Give them positive feedback when they do well, and constructive feedback when they need guidance. If their workload is too heavy, find ways to lighten it or make it easier to bear. Your employees need to know that you support them; they will work harder for a company and a manager that they believe have their back. You will see a decrease in turnovers and an increase in morale and productivity.

Define Your Goals

Most of all, your employees need to know they are working towards something. Concrete, well-defined goals are important for a lot of reasons. It’s difficult to achieve a sense of progress, or a sense of accomplishment, without a goal that’s easy to measure. It makes it difficult to identify problems and give feedback. How do you hold team members accountable if failure isn’t easily identifiable? Help your teams develop firm, achievable goals that can be measured and recorded. They will feel more fulfilled as they push towards those goals, and will be more motivated to pursue them when they can experience a sense of progress. Contact IActionable to find out more about how defined, measurable goals can help improve performance.