Applying the Principles of Teamwork

Team concept. Teamwork. Over the past few decades, these words have become buzz words for business and industry. While many organizations have enjoyed success in implementing a team environment, others have found it difficult to move beyond theory to practical application of teamwork.

What makes the difference? Even companies, managers, and employees whose attitudes are favorable for the success of a team environment are sometimes at a loss to know what specific behaviors support teamwork. In general, we do know what successful teams, whether in sports or in business and industry, define the vision and mission of the team and its members, and they excel at setting goals and implementing a plan of action. All team members have the responsibility to motivate themselves, and they share the responsibility of creating a climate conducive for motivation for other team members.

The events over the past couple of years have left people troubled about tomorrow. The world is going through massive, constant change. Technology and global competition are resulting in different organizational models, restructured businesses, and new ways of doing things. Most companies are getting leaner and flatter. Businesses are redistributing power and information, giving employees at all levels more influence on results than ever before. It is exactly in this environment that high-performing, self-managing teams will not only excel, but are essential to success.

A team is defined as a small group of skilled people who work together toward a common goal or purpose. The team’s primary responsibility is to focus on accomplishing the goal that brought your team together in the first place — working in concert as a high performing team. To reach that goal as quickly as possible, use the following five keys; they are highly effective, time tested, and proven to work, for both individuals and teams:

Crystallize your Thinking

Just as you have a destination in mind when you begin a trip, you need a “destination” or goal in mind when you are hired to do a job or assigned to a team. Determine what goal your organization wants your team to achieve.

Only when you know what the goal or destination is can you apply all your best thinking and your best efforts to reach that goal. Nothing is more discouraging to an employee than to have worked hard for days or weeks on a certain project only to find out that he or she did not have a clear understanding of what was expected.

Once you have a clear understanding of what the goal of the team is, then you can dedicate yourself to its attainment with unswerving singleness of purpose. Just as you probably do on a road trip, you need to check your map occasionally to make sure you are traveling the right route. Ask your team leader and check any written instructions that were given to you to make sure your thinking is crystallized and you are focusing on the goal.

When all team members know what the goal is and clearly understands what role they play in the overall success of the team, then you are on the road to success. Most problems that teams encounter can be traced to a lack of crystallized thinking.

Develop an Action Plan

A plan of action is simply an outline of the goals and the action steps required to reach your team’s overall goal. The plan of action is where your team gets its day-to-day focus, direction, and stability.

Though simple, a detailed plan of action is one of the most effective tools a team possesses. A clear plan of action enables team members to remain focused on the action steps required to reach the goal. You can work with more enthusiasm and commitment when you know exactly what you’re supposed to do, and you will be more competent as you progress toward the team’s desired destination.

Four steps are required to develop a meaningful plan of action: • Make an outline of the steps your team will take. • Create short-term goals toward which your team focuses. • Make a detailed schedule of the dates you plan to accomplish your team’s small and large goals. • Develop an individual action plan for each team member showing what each person needs to accomplish to help the team reach the short-term goals and ultimately the overall long-term goal.

Develop Desire

A burning desire is the greatest motivator of every human action. The desire for success implants success consciousness, which in turn creates a vigorous and ever-increasing habit of success. Desire is the difference between a goal and a wish. Desire puts action into your plans. Without it, you will never succeed – no matter how worthy your goal nor how workable your plan.

Enthusiasm is the outward reflection of your inner desire. More than any other characteristic or trait of human personality, enthusiasm is the companion of success in every achievement, every worthwhile venture, every upward step in human progress. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Your enthusiasm will be contagious. As you develop desire and enthusiasm to reach your goal, your teammates also will begin to feel this energy. As more team members develop desire, the momentum builds and your team will be unstoppable.

Develop Confidence

Nothing gives you more confidence than knowing exactly the actions you plan to take and the order in which to take them. When you have crystallized your thinking so that you know where you stand and where you want to go, you have laid the groundwork for supreme confidence.

When challenges arise, and they inevitably will, maintain your focus on your goal and on your ability to reach that goal. Keep your eyes straight ahead and distractions will not slow you down. Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. Remain confident that you will reach your goal – and you will!

Develop supreme confidence in yourself and in your own abilities. Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses – on your powers, instead of your problems.

Develop Determination

Develop a dogged determination to follow through on your plan, regardless of obstacles, criticism, circumstances, or what other people say, think, or do. You may expect to hear negative comments from certain people, but when those certain people are on your team, what should you do? The answer is to move forward toward your goal. Construct your determination with sustained effort, controlled attention, and concentrated energy. Do not allow negative or complacent attitudes from teammates to slow you down. Those individuals in time either change and go with the team, or they will remain unchanged and most likely be taken off the team.

Do not let others distract you. Hang on, do not quit, and you will win. Opportunities never come to those who wait – they are captured by those who dare to develop dogged determination.

No matter how large the goal might be, one step at a time will see it come to pass. That is why knowing what you need to do on a daily basis – and then doing it – is so important.

Leadership Management® Institute
Reprinted with permission
Strategic Essentials is a Managing Partner for Leadership Management® International, Inc.

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