Some businesses have a definite attitude. You can walk in the door and feel it. There’s something in the air that takes hold of you…and won’t let you go.
It’s a positive attitude. It’s not that everyone is in a hurry or overly businesslike. On the contrary, the atmosphere more often than not is relaxed…but filled with a quiet competency, confidence, professionalism. Most of all, there’s an overwhelming sense of purpose and belonging…a feeling that everybody has an important, clearly defined and respected place in the organization.
Everybody functions as part of a dynamic team. That’s the key. Consistently successful businesses aren’t necessarily those with the best-educated or experienced employees, boasting the most modern facilities…or even selling the best products. These are distinct pluses; but more often than not they are the result of something much more important.
The single common thread running through all highly successful companies is an esprit de corps. Each individual feels like a valued member of a dedicated team that reflects the organization’s own distinct culture.
How can you foster teamwork and cooperation in your company? Follow this 10-step formula:
- Clarify your company’s identity and personality by drafting a mission statement. It doesn’t matter if you are a dentist, a scrap metal salvage company, used book vendor, family restauranteur or architect. What is your company’s philosophy? What makes your operation distinct…unique? More to the point, what is the image you would like to project? Recommendation: Put your mission statement in writing. Don’t worry about it being a work of art. It’s meant to be a living, evolving document…based more on your dream and vision than dollars and cents. Then talk it up, put it on the bulletin board, make sure everybody understands it. Then seek input on how to refine and improve it.
- Invest time in goal-setting…in pounding out clearly defined objectives. Start at the top and (in larger companies) move down to the department level. Finally, each individual should have specific, written objectives. Recommendation: Create a list of company objectives that will serve as the blueprint to guide the company for the next 12 months.
- Promote "ownership" in the company’s goals and objectives. Don’t dictate objectives. Instead, seek input. Meet with individuals and help them develop their own objectives, based on company goals. Each team member — from the part-time file clerk to the chairman of the board — should be encouraged to share and "buy into" the company’s objectives.
- Identify clearly defined roles for all team members. Everybody must understand where he or she fits in the scheme of things …and why each person’s role is important. In a well-functioning team, no one person is more valuable than any other. On a football team, for instance, though the quarterback often dominates the spotlight, he cannot win the game alone. His effectiveness depends on the coordinated efforts of all team members. And when play begins, each player must know exactly what his role and responsibilities entail.
- Develop standard operating procedures. Members of a team must work together. To coordinate their activities, they must function under a standardized set of procedures and rules. Though encouraged to think and act creatively on their own, team members are not left completely to their own devices to figure out the best way to carry out their responsibilities. Standard operating procedures must be clearly designed and communicated. Then not only do all team members know what to do…but also how to do it. Recommendation: Define procedures and train employees how to achieve their goals. Then encourage them to adapt, revise and improve those procedures.
- Foster mutual respect and positive relationships. If there is a magic ingredient that makes a successful team, it is the positive attitudes all members have towards themselves and other members of the team. People work together better in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect than they do if they fear making mistakes…or if there is personal animosity between team members. Recommendation: Insist on courtesy and respect for all individuals at all times. Be generous with praise, stingy with criticism. Discourage political games. Promote openness and honesty.
- Be a flag waver. As a business owner, you set the tone and mood within your company. Recognize your role as a leader. Be the head cheerleader…with plenty of hands-on involvement as a manager.
- Open the lines of communication. This starts with putting objectives in writing, posting information and sharing ideas. But it goes beyond that. Make a point of visiting with your employees to ask them what the company is doing right, what it could be doing better…and how it could be done. Seek out problems and complaints… but insist that every complaint be accompanied by a recommendation for its solution.
- Delegate. Too often, small business owners assign tasks to employees who are expected to carry them out without complaint…often without even knowing why they are doing them. This kills initiative and turns employees into underlings…not team members. Recommendation: Delegate responsibilities and authority, not just tasks. Empower your employees to achieve their objectives and simply deliver the results to you.
- Train…and keep on training. Nothing builds a sense of pride, confidence and professionalism better than knowledge and competence. The best way to build and strengthen your team is to keep training your employees.
Most of all, keep at it. Build a team spirit and it will be like having numerous partners in your business. all dedicated to success.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun.
– JRIngrisano (The Freestyle Entrepreneur)
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