Let me begin by letting you know this is not a short post. It’s the lengthiest post I have ever written but I feel it’s important since we’re all being affected by the “Great Recession”, the expressed outrage with the possible loss of union bargaining rights, the fear of what deficient spending may bring to our children and grandchildren, the explosive uprisings around the world, and now… potential gasoline caused inflation.
As a great aunt of mine used to say, “my, my, what are we gonna do?” So what are you going to do? Which team are you on? The Left? The Right? The Independent? The “I don’t give a damn”. Or will you be part of the team called the United States of America? We sure don’t sound united, do we? But we must think and act united, don’t we? If not now, when?
I sent a copy of the Ten Commandments of Teamwork to President Obama at the White House about this time two years ago, shortly after his inauguration. I did not receive a confirmation that he or his staff had received it. But this post is for you who are undecided or need a better way to have your concerns heard and acted upon. Use the following guidelines to “do the right thing” and remember we are all on the same team.
1-The Team must have purpose
Obvious? Of course but how many work team projects have a purpose of… cutting costs, increasing sales, keeping up with the competition. Too often the result of having a purpose (the goals) becomes the purpose of a team because many times defining a purpose can be elusive.
Dee Hock, the founder of VISA, states:
“To me, purpose is a clear, simple statement of intent that identifies and binds the community together as worthy of pursuit. It is more than what we want to accomplish. It is an unambiguous expression of that which people jointly wish to become. It should speak to them so powerfully that all can say with conviction, ‘if we could achieve that, my life would have meaning.’ Making a profit is not a purpose. It may be an objective; it may be a necessity; it may be a gratification; but it is not a purpose!” (“Birth of the Chaordic Age”, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., pg.6)
What is the purpose of these United States? Is it being the world’s police force, the caretaker of democracy and human rights, or to serve the powerful by granting political and financial gains? Tell me what you think the purpose of the USA is.
2-Visualization of Team purpose must be held by all Team members
How does one visualize “increased profitability” or “higher quality” or “caretaker of democracy”? Defining a meaningful purpose to be visualized is a task that when a team reverts back to their imagination they had as a child, it becomes a snap. Do you and your team share a common purpose/vision?
3-You must commit to Team purpose
Commitment. As with many words, there is more than one definition found in the dictionary. The one that pertains most in this context is: The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another person or persons.
A lack of commitment is usually rooted in a misalignment of the Team’s Purpose/Vision and the individual’s personal purpose/vision of their role within the team.
4-You must know and accept your role within the Team
Can you clearly describe your role in your current team(s)? Is your contribution to the team important? Are you satisfied with your responsibilities? Are you attaining goals on time?
If any of your answers lean toward the negative… is the issue in your purpose/vision or the team’s?
5-Trust the Team as you trust yourself
Trust is the heart of a team. With it, teamwork works. Without it, competition becomes prevalent. The expression “there’s no ‘I’ in team” is overused (TTJ 3/31/02 Team Profits), but within that same context, there’s no ‘C’ in team.
Competition when directed inward gives the team member incentive to perform their role to a higher level. That in turn produces conditions that promote optimum role execution from the other team members. By supporting each other, everyone works as a team not as competitors.
All successful teams have good communication skills. It doesn’t matter, what kind of team it is. A team focused in athletics, in implementing a work project, for political aspirations, or in the execution of military exercises. Communication is necessary to properly coordinate individual effort into team success. Communicating the status and expectations of action builds trust. And to iterate, trust is the heart of a team.
7-When an issue arises; look first at how you may be contributing to it
Every team deals with issues and challenges, you know what I mean, problems. I have an email subscription from an IT trade magazine that presents true humorous anecdotes of how Information Technology professionals handle problems in an unprofessional manner. Many times the person recounting the events expresses delight of his/her teammates’ foible when solving problems. Very rarely does the narrator own up to his part in the problem.
If team members are looking within for cause and resolution, this guideline becomes second nature.
We have all been blamed for something. If you didn’t do what you’ve been blamed for, anger and resentment become part of your consciousness. If you did what you’re been blamed for, shame and loss of confidence are the result. Granted blame is appropriate when there is criminal intent. But most “problems” are mistakes and likely carried the best intentions. Simply concentrate on solving the issue. Blame never solves anything
9-Always select the solution that best contributes to the Team purpose
Are you wondering why something so obvious is a precept? Think about how many times in your experience this was not the case. Have you experienced solutions being decided that were based primarily on what a multi-page decision chart presents, or because of the influence of a team member with many years experience, or “because I’m the [boss, manager, leader] and the decision rests with me”?
The best solution has every team member committing to it, even though there may be reservations. This commitment can only be expected when each team member is given the opportunity to express his or her valued opinion on how an issue is resolved.
10-Remember: a Team’s strength is in it’s diversity of knowledge, experience and personalities
Why remember… because many times it’s forgotten when conflict arises. Contrary to some team-building philosophies, work teams do not perform at a high level because of a “touchy, feely” environment, which may at times be detrimental to attain expected and exceptional results.
Conflict builds confidence and character but only when it does not come at the expense of another team member losing. It is important to be aware of the difference between compromise and concession.
Recognizing and supporting the diverse attributes that each member brings, best resolve conflicts that well-built teams have.
Congratulations to you who have read this through. Now… what are you gonna do?
Final words —
“I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people convinced that they are about to change the world, I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another.”
Ellen Goodman (American Journalist, Awarded Pulitzer Prize in 1980)
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963)