Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Teamwork

Once you have your team together, and have a plan in place and all the work divided among your people, it just falls into place right?  It doesn’t?  Huh…

As the leader, you have a responsibility to keep the main goal in front of all your people so they understand why their part is important and timely.  It is not easy working with a team when they’ve never worked together before.  What kind of problems do you see?  Think back to your High School days.  You were put on a team for a group project…for me, it was Social Studies.  The leader divided up the tasks and you did yours and turned it in to the leader.   The leader lost it.  (?)  You kept a copy though so you re-submitted it.  The day before the project was due, you had 1 last meeting with the group.  Your part was 12 pages of typed information with graphs and pictures.  Bobby’s part was a 1/2 page of hand written, incorrect and incomplete information that was finished in the 2 minutes before the bell rang.  Betsy said her dog ate hers.  Billy asked what his project was.  The leader has 2 pages of summary to write to finish up the project and all he has is your report and Bobby’s scribblings.  The way these projects are graded, it doesn’t matter how much you personally did, you and the whole team get a grade you all share.  If you have a high grade average, you don’t want to be given a low grade because the rest of the team didn’t step up.  The leader throws his hands in the air and will just turn in your report which only covers 1 aspect of the project.  That way, everyone gets a D and they can continue with their lives.  You get mad and yell at the leader and the rest of the team and demand that they step up and get the stuff done tonight and you will help write the summary tomorrow before school starts.  They yell back.  You don’t want to take the D, so you do ALL their reports and write the summary.  The team gets a B+ on the project and everyone but you is happy, though they resent you for taking over.  You are also terribly sleepy because you pulled an all-nighter to do this, and the teachers keep yelling at you for nodding off in class.  Long story to get a point across.

What did the leader do to ensure that the project was done?  How long was the project?  Was it a week?  a month? a quarter?  Was there a length and detail requirement?  (The report must be 12-15 pages and include 3 illustrations and a bibliography for instance.)  What kind of accountability were the members of the team held to?  Was the goal clear?  Was it big enough that it required every member to do their best to reach it?  If the goal of the project was to get something turned in,  it didn’t require much of its team members.  If, however, the goal was to get the project displayed in the County Courthouse, and get an award, then it might have motivated the team members to more participation.  If the goal was to get the best report in the class to win free pizza, everyone would have spent hours in the library and given up on their weekends!  Grades don’t motivate very well.  In the real world, if your project demands a team because the goal and the vision are beyond your personal abilities, time and expertise, then you have to get a team that is as dedicated as you are.

As the leader of the team, you are responsible for the morale of the team and the direction of the project.  You’ll notice that the direction of the project is 2nd.  The morale of the team is dependent on whether they have a common goal, buy into the vision, like and trust you and the other team members, and believe they are  essential to the success of the project.  You have to believe that every member of the team is playing an integral part and there are no minor tasks.  I have worked in many situations where the morale is so bad that the turnover rate was abysmal.  The performance on a scale of 1-10, was about -5.  The complaints were so common that it was considered the normal state of things to get 2-4 complaints daily.   We had infighting and gossip and people walking off in a huff.  We had no call/no shows at the worst of times–try running a shift that requires 13 people with a team of 5.  As a team member, do you try to address these issues or do you blame the leader?  As a leader, do you try to fix these issues or do you throw up your hands and suggest that all your team members are hopeless?

How do you recover the team’s morale, especially when it seems there is none?!  You must work one day at a time, one member at a time, one task at a time to build the trust and respect from your team mates, and expand it to your whole team.  One place I worked, every morning there was a complaint from the morning crew posted on the crew bulletin board on how badly the night crew left things.  When we had inspections, it was usually in the morning, so on inspection day, the day crew, knowing they had no support from management or the night crew, would come in 1 to 1 1/2 hours before their shift to clean and organize.  They never did it before they left their shifts the day before, because everything would be undone the next morning.  The store would eke by its inspection and the morning crew would be extra grouchy to the night crew.  The night crew would also leave notes on how the morning crew never stocked or cleaned the equipment so the night crew had to clean the equipment twice and stock in a hurry since the store was already open when they arrived.  One day, there was a note to one of the night crew, with his NAME on it.  Those notes were always particularly nasty.  The recipient didn’t even open it, and just threw it in the trash.  I noticed this and grabbed it out of the trash and made him read it out loud to me.  He blushed and you could tell he was angry.  But he opened the note and read, “Mike, you really did a good job of cleaning the biscuit area!  Thanks for the help!  I have stocked the meat cooler for you.”  He was flabbergasted.  He went the extra mile and super cleaned the area that night and stocked her supplies too.  She came in grumbling the next morning because her hands hurt and her back hurt and she didn’t want to stock.  Boy was she surprised at the state of her station!  She left him another note thanking him.  Things started to look up.  Eventually, we got together “THE LIST” of things that the morning crew was responsible for and the night crew was responsible for.  You couldn’t leave the store until your chores were marked off.  There was some resentment at first, but with the complimentary notes going on the board instead of just the rants, and cooperation between the day and night crew, the morale went way up.  The problem with this scenario is that you don’t always have the time to take all these steps.

It would be a good idea to define the chores ahead of time, and recognize people in the process of completing projects to reach goals instead of waiting until the project is done and then going with the golf clap and a certificate.  Make sure everyone on the team understands the parameters of the project, the reason for the goal and how it fits in the the vision.  Then make sure everyone knows what is expected of each member.  Be sure your team members have all the support, resources and tools necessary for the job.  And most importantly, communicate, communicate, communicate!!!!  Without periodic updates, there is no room for adjustment.  That’s when bad decisions get made.  That’s when last minute changes throw everyone else off their game.  That’s when little problems turn into gossip turn into complaints turn into nasty behavior and the team falls apart.  The goal changes from a group goal that helps to fulfill the vision to a personal goal on how to wreck that cheating, lying, lazy doofus.




One thought on “Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Teamwork

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