8/1/2000 | 5 MINUTE READ

Establishing That Team Spirit

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Teamwork starts with a leader, whether at the head of a department, function or corporation. If he perceives himself as a unique individual whose job it is to tell others what to do, forget about teamwork. It hasn't a chance in such an environment. But if he views himself and his people as a group working toward common goals, then he's on the right track. But that's not the whole story. Not everyone takes to teamwork. Each employee has his or her personal quirks, ambitions and biases. Modeling disparate personalities into a smoothly functioning team is challenging work. If you aspire to managing a true team, and not simply a collection of rugged individualists who happen to work near each other, some of the things you'll have to work at include:

Emphasizing team goals. You have to be sure that each of your people understand the group's mission and precisely what role he or she is expected to play in the overall scheme. If a particular project will require one worker to subordinate himself to another for a time, explain that in advance to avoid possible conflicts later.

Associating individual accomplishments with team goals. Stress the importance of each individual's contribution to the success of the group and the importance of the group's success to him or her personally.

Sharing the credit for the success of the team. When a job or project is done, make sure that all who contributed to its success know how much their efforts are appreciated.

Good teamwork takes time, patience and constant attention to detail. Above all, however, it takes a leader who is dedicated to the concept.

How to Judge An Idea
Ideas can be seductive, especially if they're our own. We tend to give ourselves the benefit of every doubt and since ideas reflect intelligence and creativity, they are closely associated with our egos. “I couldn't possibly have a dumb idea” sums up the initial reaction of most people to their own brainstorms.

Unfortunately, most of us can indeed have bad ideas. Many people have had what seems a fantastic insight just before falling asleep, only to see its splendor turn to ashes in the light of the day. Sometimes, however, even our daytime ideas are not as good as we would like to believe.

So . . . how can you judge your idea?

One approach is to subject it to some keen questioning. Here is a list that should help you determine the worth of any idea:

Is the idea basically simple? Is it too clever? Too ingenious? Too complicated? Is it compatible with human nature? Could your mother, your cousin, your neighbor, your mailman all accept it? Is it direct and uncomplicated? Can your idea make others say, “Now, why didn't I think of that?” Is your idea timely?

Would it have been better six months or a year ago? (If so, is there any point in pursuing it now?)

Will it be better six months or a year from now? (If so, can you afford to wait?)

How to Handle Pressure
Nobody is telling you anything new when he tells you that pressure is an integral part of your workday. It comes with the territory.

There is a very good reason for this. By the very nature of a manager's work—decisions to be made, people to be dealt with, elusive factors to be identified—he is inevitably fated to some frustrations and setbacks. There never were, never will be people in positions of responsibility who bat 1.000.

Some grow discouraged and throw in the towel. They play it safe, never stick their necks out, never know the heady feeling of wrenching achievement out of the jaws of adversity. Others, however, react differently. They relish the challenge of pressure because they recognize it as a spur to accomplishment.

Let's examine some common on-the-job situations that tend to generate tensions and see what can be done to reduce or eliminate them.

Internal competition. Does it disturb you when you learn that someone else has been tapped for a promotion? Or that the other person's ideas has been adopted instead of your own? Don't let it.

Rather, recognize that nobody can be on top always. Healthy competition within an organization is good and desirable; it keeps everyone on his toes, doing his best. As long as you are doing the very best you can and winning your share of the laurels, internal competition should not prove a source of frustration or tension.

Time pressures. One of the most serious frustrations plaguing managers is the problem of finding the time to do all the things they are supposed to do. Unless the individual finds a satisfactory solution to this problem, he will feel harassed, overburdened and confused.

To the rescue: organization of time through planning. Long-range planning sets up a program of accomplishment for a 30-day or even a 60-day period; short-range planning sets up a weekly schedule; night-before planning pinpoints specific tasks to be done—or started—on the following day. Some concrete suggestions:

  • Dispose of the things that can be handled promptly. The few projects that remain will not be hard to cope with.
  • Take time to communicate with others involved with you in a project. A little time invested in explaining something thoroughly can save hours later by preventing misunderstanding and fuzzy instructions.
  • Don't bang your head against a brick wall. If a problem has you stymied, put it aside and come back to it when your mood and mind toward it have improved.
  • Turn down certain demands on your time. It's flattering to be asked to serve on a committee or address a group, but these invitations are also cruel demands on your time and energy, neither of which is limitless.

Criticism. Some people are thin-skinned and overly sensitive. Others are the victims of tactless, heavy-handed criticism from superiors. Whatever the reason, the individual who allows criticism to get under his skin is headed for a fall. He feels rebuffed and unappreciated, sulks, takes it out on his family and subordinates and soon finds himself as ineffective on the job as off.

The solution?
Assuming that the criticism was deserved and properly given, welcome it, be grateful for it, and determine to act on it. Remember that it is a valuable form of communication, for it is one key to better performance.