Most of us want to be on a true team at work. It’s much more productive, rewarding, and enjoyable. People may stay for less pay because they really like being on the right team. It takes a team for consistent and exceptional achievement which is what high performers seek. At their retirement parties, people speak most often about teammates they had the opportunity to work with during their careers.  An organization with a team culture has a major advantage over competitors who do not.

What’s life like at work when there’s not a real team?  Talented team-oriented professionals must endure: 1) the coworker or supervisor who’s figuring out a way to blame others before work on the project even begins, 2) information and resources are not shared, 3) the poison of gossip and rumors, 4) the colleague who steps over dead bodies as their favorite promotional path, 5) the constant jockeying and self-promotion seen as more important to employees than their individual performance and integrity, and 6) the department who thinks only of the department not the company or customers.

The costs to companies who lack a team culture are extremely high. Unable to trust, employees spend extra time on self-defense (e.g., the email that is “cc” ed to everyone as documentation). Recruitment, morale, productivity, and retention are adversely affected.

With human beings, there may be some amount of self-promotion and jockeying. However, it can vary greatly by employer.  The level of function or dysfunction in any organization is always the responsibility of the leadership.

All talent, time, and energy must be invested in the mission and team. Some organizations have employees spending a majority of their work time on self-serving thinking and behaviors. They work part time on the mission, little or none for the team, and full time for themselves on your payroll.

When employees are allowed to waste time better spent on the mission, team, and customers on self-centered thinking and behaviors, that’s a culture problem.  What’s permitted will occur and be repeated by individuals and replicated by others.

Who’s to blame? Leadership. Leadership is responsible for the culture and the team.  Leaders must recruit, hire, train, supervise, evaluate, promote, recognize, and reward for true teamwork. Leaders must model team culture.  Leaders must continually communicate that teamwork is a defining and uncompromising value of the organization.

Trust is the oxygen of a team. You need to feel safe to trust others and to be open, honest, and vulnerable. A team culture enables people to admit mistakes, ask for help, identify problems, and suggest solutions.  The Golden Rule must govern organizational life – to treat others as you like to be treated. Team members are polite, professional, civil, supportive, and collegial. They seek and give support. They are givers not takers.

Sometimes it takes leadership changing a culture so employees can trust.  Most employees can make this transition.  However, if an employee shows no sign of being able to trust or serve on a team, you cannot retain them. The self-promoter needs to promote themselves somewhere else.

Leadership gets the behaviors they tolerate and reward. Mixed messages destroy trust and culture.  Authenticity and consistency build trust and maintain the right culture.

Teams attract and retain talent. Teams produce performance. Teams change history. As Michael Jordan would say, talent wins games and teams win championships. Lead like creating and protecting your team is everything because in the end, it really is.


Image: NBC