How Managers Can Lead a Successful Team

While motivation and discipline are on opposite ends of the management spectrum, managers need to provide both to lead a team successfully. A manager who uses only motivational techniques may be well liked, but over time employees begin to lose respect for leadership if they feel they can get away with bad behaviors.

Conversely, a manager that provides only disciplinary measures without motivation fails to inspire a team. Once employees realize there is no reward for positive behavior, they lose the desire to succeed.

By combining motivation and discipline, managers create a balance of rewards and corrective actions that drive a team to perform better. Try implementing this balance using the following methods to build a stronger, more effective team.

Motivational:

Create a Positive Environment

Part of your responsibility as a manager is creating a positive environment where your team enjoys working. By encouraging learning, collaboration, and individual growth, you support your team and promote a constructive, comfortable workplace.

While creating a positive environment involves fostering personal and professional growth, it also involves treating employees equally. If you favor a select group of employees or single out employees for undeserved reprimands, you create a work environment that incites resentment. Listen to opinions from the entire team before making decisions that affect the group, or you compromise the respect of your employees.

Setting Goals

Every person sets different types of life goals, including mental, work, personal, financial, spiritual, physical, and family goals. Identify goals you can help individual members of the team attain. For example, a mental goal may be that an employee wishes to learn more about a subject. Help them reach that goal by getting the company to pay for further education classes. A financial goal may be easier, as a raise is a straightforward way of reaching that goal.

Set company goals that your team works toward. Offer something that helps them achieve personal goals if the company goal is reached. Providing a “this for that” goal structure ends in success for everyone involved. By motivating as a group, you foster a stronger sense of teamwork in the office.

Provide Incentives

Understanding individual motivations is key to inspiring employees. If a team member reaches a goal, offer incentives that motivate them to push harder or start quickly toward their next goal, whether that means a bonus or an extra day off. Even small incentives provide motivation that lead to future success. Teams need to feel appreciated or they lose their drive to accomplish individual and company goals.

Recognize Achievements

Call out employees that achieve positive results. While the focus should be on professional victories, noting personal wins builds a more concrete bond within the office. It is important to note that any personal wins should be discussed and welcomed with the employee before public mention.

Private recognition for professional victories is fine, but by publicly recognizing great work, the employee feels valued and appreciated by the entire office. Public recognition is a reward, in itself. Call out success stories to recognize individual or team achievements and motivate your workplace to continue reaching goals.

Offer a Something More

Providing a percentage-based reward prevents employees from reaching a set goal and losing motivation. If you offer a flat reward for reaching a goal, your team has no motivation to keep moving forward and demonstrating exceptional dedication. By offering a portion of the profits, there is no cap on how much they can make for themselves—and for the company.

Ask for Feedback

Your team should feel appreciated. By asking for feedback, you communicate respect for their opinions and seek out areas where there is room for improvement. Although this may not seem like an effective form of motivation, showing employees you care about what they have to say encourages them to speak up and contribute to a better workplace.

Disciplinary

Three strikes

Outline actions that lead to punishment and potential termination for your company. Employees need to be aware of behaviors that lead to discipline. By explicitly stating the consequences of each infraction, you deter repeat offenders and create a more structured workplace. Employing a three-strike policy allows room for initial mistakes and a subsequent chance to correct. Applying this technique illustrates the company’s disciplinary policy to your team in a clear cause-and-effect manner.

Escalating Warnings

Escalating warnings give increasingly severe consequences for each infraction. Start with a verbal warning that is private and gives the employee a chance to discuss behavior issues without the rest of the team around. Ask the employee if any outside or personal problems could be contributing to the performance problems. Since most workplace problems are not long-term issues, resist putting a first warning in writing. This offers the employee the opportunity to correct behavior without causing potential long-term damage to their career.

Respond to a second offense with a written warning. Documenting the issue increases the severity of the punishment and implies that the behavior is not improving. This written warning provides legal protection in case an unhappy employee files a claim against the company.

If a written warning does not culminate in corrective steps, make it clear that the employee faces demotion and even possible termination. Escalating warnings give your team the chance to fix bad behavior before it damages a healthy work environment.

Correcting by Coaching

This softer, more hands-on approach urges managers to demonstrate the expected behavior and lead by example. Offer the team support and counseling to guide them to the appropriate course of action when trying the correcting by coaching method. By focusing on the person first and the product or service second, you craft a strong foundation for your team. Try the correcting by coaching method if you want to see permanent change in employees without using tougher forms of discipline.

Positive Discipline

Make clear the things you want to see, not things you do not want to see, when implementing positive discipline techniques. Positive discipline frees the work environment of negativity while addressing issues that affect your team. This approach prevents employees from feeling as if you are criticizing or picking on them. While positive discipline takes a patient hand, it is a constructive way of enforcing behaviors in the workplace.

Combine some of these motivational and disciplinary techniques to become a stronger manager and better team leader. By highlighting the positive actions of the group and disciplining any negative actions, you demonstrate a fair, yet strong stance as a manager of your company.

 

Over Thinking Leadership Decisions

How much time each week do you spend making decisions? Likely, many of the choices you make are almost automatic, requiring little thought: attend that meeting or not? Stay late to finish the report tonight, or come in early tomorrow? And then, there are more challenging choices, such as whether or not to terminate an underperforming employee’s employment.

Your daily work life is made up of numerous tasks, all of which require decision-making. According to Sheena Iyengar, a Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and author of The Art of Choosing, the average CEO works on 139 tasks per week. In a TED Talk called How to Make Choosing Easier, Iyengar reports that scientists who documented the many decisions related to those 139 tasks found that 50 percent of the choices related to task completion took nine minutes or less. Not all decisions are reached quickly, however; about 12 percent of CEO decisions require an hour or more of thought.

When it comes to effective leadership decision-making, it’s both a quality and a quality issue.

As a leader, your ability to make sound decisions is imperative; knowing just how much time to invest in deciding can make or break your personal effectiveness and, by extension, that of your department and organization. To be sure, certain decisions require careful thought. But you’re probably over-thinking other issues that don’t require the attention you’re devoting.

Here are five reasons you might be investing too much time in “deciding”:

Your threshold for accuracy is too high. If you are a high achiever (and many leaders are), it’s likely that high accuracy is part of your DNA. If “nearly perfect” is your default operating mode, rethink your quality threshold. For decisions with low probability of negative ramifications, ask yourself what is “good enough” for this decision? Even if the choice doesn’t meet your standards, does it meet the standards of the person making the request? If it does, learn to let it go.

There are too many choices. If you have a tendency to be very thorough in your thought process, it’s possible you are inadvertently decreasing the quality of your decision. Professor Iyengar’s research has shown that having too many choices actually leads to poorer decision quality. Have you asked your staff to bring you numerous options in the name of thoroughness? Stick to between five and seven options for optimal decision-making.

You’re going for the “yummy” option. Sometimes the best choice requires a bit of willpower.  For example, you say “yes” to your customer (satisfying the customer is a key priority, right?) and agree to provide a quote for services by day’s end today, even though you know that it would be a more accurate—and therefore more profitable— quote if your engineers had another day to work on it.  But humans are notoriously bad at making choices based on outcomes that are future-based. David Laibson, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, describes researching which people offered fruit or chocolate will make the “healthy” choice of fruit if they describe what they plan to eat next week.  If, however, they are asked to make a fruit/chocolate choice today, then they tend to choose the yummier choice of chocolate, delaying the healthy choice until “another day.” What decisions are you making that are appealing for the near term, but would be even better if you exercised a bit of additional willpower?

The perceived risk is exaggerated. Although some of a leader’s decisions truly have important financial and people-related implications, many more fall into less weighty categories. Often, the choices that cause leaders to hesitate have far more to do with ego and reputation than any true harm to one’s team or organization. What do you (or your organization) really have to lose by making this choice? Remember that even failure can be an opportunity to learn something, so if that’s what’s holding you back, reconsider.

You have a “do-it-myself” mindset. Yes, the buck does eventually stop with you and there are times when you must make the tough choices. How often do you pull the decisions towards you when one of your team members could easily make the call? The greatest gift you can give as a leader is to develop the decision-making skills of your team members. In my early days as a professional, it was an immense confidence-builder when my work team leader told me, “You make the call, I trust your decision.”

Are you devoting the right balance of deep thought and expedient decision-making? The next time you have a decision to make, use these guidelines to determine if this choice is worthy of an hour of your time, or less than 10 minutes. Then, get to deciding.

Communicating Effectively

Communicating Effectively

By: Mike Ellison

 

When people do not have all of the tools they need to communicate effectively, work teams easily become dysfunctional. At every job level, the skills needed for people to communicate with each other directly, openly, and honestly are missing more often than not. In the absence of such expertise, a company can be prone to overlook important priorities by focusing on just one operation, one department, one team, or one personal agenda. In addition, team members are likely to misalign tasks with goals and targeted outcomes. Without open dialogue, the results could have a negative impact on manufacturing, production, customer, financing and many other departments needed for the success in building a strong and profitable company. It is important to remember that productive, successful teams are not accidental. They are the result of purposeful effort by all team members to engage, collaborate, develop, and improve collectively. And while most members of a team indicated that they want to be part of a high-performance team, you need to be prepared to understand that it wouldn’t be so easy to make it happen.

To be successful you will need to do something significant in terms of training and guidance, before members of the team waste time on fruitless activities and fail to reach desired productivity levels. Additionally, one element that sets the stage for a professional business environment is the conduct in which communication is established. Team members personalities vary and leadership is measured in the tone in which information is presented, along with emotion, and gesture. It is therefore vital that leaders consider communication that is receptive towards varying personalities, while understanding that people are in tune with sincerity.
The following is a description of the implementation of the institute’s “Teams That Work” model.

There are six variables, essential to the development and growth of high-performance teams. If a work group fails to adhere to these essentials, time and energy are spent on “people problems,” where defending, blaming, and justifying actions take time away from task accomplishment. Conversely, when the six characteristics are practiced consistently, the process can create rich context for conversations that improve team performance and organizational productivity. Applying the model also provides the team with a common vocabulary and a way to understand behavior of other team members.

TEAMS THAT WORK

Work groups that exhibit high performance and efficiency generally have these six essential qualities at their core:

  1. High level of trust
  2. High level of respect
  3. Commitment to a clear and common purpose
  4. Willingness and ability to manage conflict
  5. Focus on results
  6. Alignment of authority and accountability

KEEPING YOUR BALANCE

“The Teams That Work” model, is based upon the yin-yang concept, with the accomplishment of tasks (the teams actions) in contrast with the ability to effectively work with others (how and why each individual does his or her tasks). Consider the ramifications associated with a team, result of a colleague who is brilliant at task accomplishment, yet can’t collaborate with team members. Likewise, what is the value to the group of someone who can get along with everyone, but is unable to perform tasks at the necessary level? These mismatches demonstrate the kind of imbalances that cause animosity, missed deadlines, frustration, and overall disconnect throughout the workplace. The goal is to create a high-performance team where tasks and people skills are in balance, (meaning all team members have the skills required to work together towards a common purpose). Additionally, everyone in the work group has the ability and willingness to address and resolve behavior or actions counter-productive to the purpose. In the current higher education environment, with decreasing budgets and increasing workload, the workplace often becomes overwhelmed with a focus on task accomplishment, resulting in hyper stress and burnout. When this happens, the team will actually work harder but accomplish less. Tempers are short, sometimes leading to unprofessional behavior such as coworkers making demands of each other. The goal is rather to create a balance between task accomplishment and people skills. This balance does not imply that a team will spend half its time on tasks and half on people, but that it will spend the appropriate amount of time on each. Because there are fewer people issues, a team will actually spend most of its time and effort on task accomplishment.

PROGRESS THROUGH PRACTICE

Continuing to foster and strengthen the six characteristics outlined in the model, described below:

  1. High level of trust. Knowing that your colleagues will come through for you is not a feeling you can build at a weekend retreat, it must be created over time as people work and face challenges together. Every interaction among team members will move their relationships closer to or further from the goal of trust. While unconditional trust is a lofty goal, it is not necessary to reach that point for a team to work at a high level. All that needs to happen is for team members to consistently demonstrate behavior that reinforces trustworthiness. The outcome is trustworthiness where members can rely on one other. At this stage, we are better at asking questions to clarify something rather than questioning a team member’s work or integrity. The intersections are about creating a context within which team members can collaborate instead of defending or justifying independent behaviors. “The bottom line, is that work colleagues can now say, I trust you because you consistently do what you say you are going to do. However, a single action can completely erode or destroy a trusting environment. Openly criticizing someone in front of his or her peers, for example, is a sure way to accomplish that. When something like this happens, trust is not easily regained. The pattern of expected behavior has been interrupted. The parties involved need to revisit the “people” side of the yin-yang balance and clarify appropriate behavior. The major benefit in facilitating a trusting environment is that it creates the safety necessary for asking difficult questions and keeping things open and on track. Individuals can let themselves be vulnerable, sharing thoughts and ideas for which they know they will not be personally or negatively judged. Before an individual takes on that risk, however, all team members need to perceive in each other (a) integrity the fact that one will do what they’ve committed to, in the method the team has agreed; (b) authenticity you are transparent, genuine, and not two-faced; and (c) caring you consistently demonstrate win/win behavior in the team relationship.
  2. A high level of respect. Respect is linked to the ability to achieve results, with each person having a high regard for the skills and talents of other team members. Sometimes this characteristic is confused with treating one another respectfully. While that is important and always appropriate, respect is tied to the task. Staff wants to be able to say, “I have a high regard for your talents and skills to accomplish our goals.” As team productivity improves, take the time to celebrate the successes and recognize individual efforts that take place within and across teams. With monetary recognition not always available during these times, the recognition itself has become even more important to staff. The team provides annual awards, community-building activities, and team recognitions, sometimes including gift cards and other small items. Spot awards will give supervisors and managers an opportunity to recognize a special accomplishment by a team member within a day of its occurrence. Trust and respect are definitely related, sometimes directly, sometimes conversely. For example, a team member may be trusted as a person but not respected in terms of the ability to perform the job. This situation eventually can erode the overall level of trust others feel toward the person. Similarly, just because a team member is brilliant at his or her job does not mean others will perceive the person as trustworthy.
  3. Commitment to a clear and common purpose. Rather than being presented as a mission statement or a plaque on the wall, the team’s purpose must be articulated such that everyone has a clear understanding of the reason the team exists. Then each individual knows “why we are here,” and can genuinely buy in (“I’ll do whatever I can to make this happen”) rather than exhibit only general interest (“I will do it if it is convenient.”). Starting with the highest levels of the organization and going on down the leadership hierarchy, ask questions that enable you to keep the focus clear, direction set, and everyone on the same page. Work to create an environment where you do not have surprises at any level. Examples of such questions include:
  • What obstacles could divert our focus?
  • What do we get out of this purpose both individually and as a team?
  • Have we involved everyone affected by our decisions?
  • Is there any part of this you/we cannot support with action?
  • Assuming we have commitment and purpose, how are we going to know if and when we don’t?

To reach commitment for a clear and common purpose, three things must be present. If one is missing, there will most likely be interest without the commitment. The purpose of the team must be bigger than one’s self. Members will be compelled to provide full buy-in, only if the team’s purpose makes a positive impact in some way on the world.  Create a supportive administrative environment where teams can do research and be productive while serving the growth and success of both the company and the clients.

Working as a team can be compared to your internet connection, if everyone is doing their part and we maintain our internet connection, no one notices. But, if the connections go down, the various department’s network of connections stops and it would be close to impossible for the mission of the company to be carried out.

Include something in it for everyone. If there is a belief or perception that the team exists to support the needs or self-esteem of only some members, it will be impossible to get full commitment from all members. Leave room for disagreement. People won’t commit to something that doesn’t align with their beliefs and values. So, when determining the group’s purpose, invite open discussion and even disagreement. This does not mean ongoing disagreement once the purpose is established. Working through negative opinions and disagreement helps clarify the purpose and foster buy-in. Team members generally don’t need to “control” this process, but they need to be able to “influence” it.

  1. Willingness and ability to manage conflict. Conflict typically results from an unmet expectation or a violation of values. Although usually unintentional, these are inevitable when two or more people work together. The challenge is not the conflict itself, but how it is managed. When all team members are willing and able to manage conflict well, these situations provide an excellent opportunity to increase the kind of clarity and understanding that improve performance. So, the goal is not to eliminate conflict but to address what is often the elephant in the room, by asking the difficult questions and then effectively managing the resulting conversation. If the issues that trigger conflict are not addressed, it could be because of lack of willingness or skills. Unwillingness indicates a lack of buy-in on the team’s purpose; a lack of skills indicates a need for training on how to ask tough or sensitive questions and conduct a difficult conversation. In many organizations, if a conflict was not addressed, most team members knew it simply would go underground, where it would linger, grow, and negatively influence the development of trust and respect. The challenge is to surface, discuss, and resolve conflict to achieve clarity so that all energy goes into goal achievement and not into protecting or defending individuals or their positions. Initially, resolving conflict was a counterintuitive behavior to some team members. But, eventually they learned that they needed to seek more information during troublesome situations instead of instantly attacking or blaming individuals for things they may or may not have done. A key technique is to avoid pointedly referring to “you” (which is judgmental and places blame); rather “ask for” accountability instead of “holding” people accountable.
  2. Focus on results. Team members who are committed to the team’s purpose will want to know how they are doing. This means they will measure the achievements and outcomes of the team’s performance as a way of seeing if their work is supporting department and institution purposes. The tangible benefits of this measurement are: (a) the team will see evidence in the value of its work to the organization and (b) staff will have information to help them determine whether they’re measuring the right things. The intangible benefits include the powerful sense of affirmation and ownership team members will feel when they see results they know they’ve contributed to.

TASK YOUR TEAM TO GET STARTED

How do you begin using the “Teams That Work” model? Go to your respective staff members, sit down with the individuals for an informal discussion, and encourage your team members to ask these questions:

  • Which of the six characteristics does our team demonstrate well? How do we sustain these behaviors?
  • Which of the six characteristics does our team seem to lack or not practice very well? How can we strengthen these areas?
  • What do we need to work on first? What two or three actions do we need to take to address organizational issues?
  • When will we follow-up on our actions?

Ask everyone on the team to write down his or her answers and then discuss the responses as a group. One option would be to take the time to collate and distribute the answers as prelude to a further discussion. Don’t force the process on the team. Let it be the beginning of the conversation that leads to actions or behaviors that the group needs to (1) keep doing, (2) start doing, or (3) stop doing. We all want to see our progress and know that our work matters and makes a difference. It is important also to look at some of the intangible things that collecting performance data will not tell us. For example, talking with team members and clients enables us to get feedback on our performance that we cannot get via forms or other instruments. It is the little things that move the company forward and cumulative results that make a difference. This kind of evaluation on a regular basis leads to the clarity that drives execution, achievement, and accomplishment. Such outcomes increase self-worth, commitment, and personal energy.

  1. Alignment of authority and accountability. Once there is commitment to a common purpose, team members will need to know their roles in supporting that purpose. Everyone will be responsible to act on defined roles and expectations that are based on four elements:
  • We have the authority we need to do our jobs.
  • We know what we are accountable for.
  • We know why we are accountable for it.
  • We know how to ask for accountability.

Understanding these four elements is foundational for building trust and respect. It allows individuals to go directly to each other when they have problems. Invariably, things get derailed-something doesn’t get done-and someone must talk to the person responsible, asking for accountability. If someone does not do what he or she promised to do or does not do it at or above the standard or level agreed to, then others must find out why. If they don’t, someone ends up over functioning to make up for the shortcoming of another, and the team no longer performs at the highest levels. But how can we question what someone did or did not do while retaining trust? The key can be found in the word “ask.” The common expression is to “hold” someone accountable, taking a power position that assumes or suggests someone was not fully committed to the purpose. But, asking is different. If everyone is already committed to the purpose, we can assume mutual commitment and ask for accountability. When done well, this approach supports trust and respect while keeping performance expectations aligned. Of course, the process can make for high-intensity conversations. The key is not to take a power position. Rather, consider what a trusting team practices:

  • Start the conversation with “I,” rather than “you.”
  • State the feeling you have, (“I’m confused,” or “I’m frustrated”) but make it less intense than what you may actually be feeling. Then pause to let the two of you recalibrate.
  • Explain why you have this feeling; avoid “you;” use first and third person. Making statements using the word “you” virtually guarantees defensiveness and resistance. Hence, avoid language like “You said you were going to have this done on time, and you didn’t do it.” Instead use first and third person-“I’m confused [pause]. The agreement was a Wednesday deadline; it is Friday and the work is not completed.”
  • Ask a question to gain clarity. “Will you help me understand what happened?” When you ask such questions, make sure your muscles are relaxed and you speak at a normal volume level. Using this tone and perspective allows both parties to retain dignity particularly if it turns out that you happen to be wrong about your interpretation of the situation.

Having a mind-set of mutual responsibility is helpful when asking for accountability. Instead of the typical model, in which all individuals go to the leader with complaints or questions, a high performance team built on trust goes directly to the person involved and seeks out more details, asking genuine questions to find out why something did or didn’t happen. Once more information comes to light, you can either set a new expectation or reach a deeper level of understanding. Of course, every work group is unique, with different styles and processes depending on the company and the individuals involved. Further complications arise with ad hoc teams that have their own dynamics. Regardless, the key to effective, high-performance work teams is clarification of the common purpose and the behavior expectations. Considering the style of each team member, the ways that you present information to gain commitment, and the method that you evaluate performance and communicate – are all critical. You can either adopt a model that is sequential and rational or work in an environment that is random and unpredictable. But, remember, productive, successful teams are not accidental. The simple truth is that when the ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ are clear, individuals can enjoy working in a group that pulls together to reach its goals and make a difference.”

A QUESTION OF ORDER

When addressing human resources and performance issues, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the order in which you or someone on your work team asks the questions, “How?” “What?” and “Why?” While the sequence is critical to building commitment, there is a difference in the order that we are paid to do things and the one that gets results. Typically, leaders start the conversation regarding an assignment or task with “What?” Much to their surprise, simply explaining the task usually doesn’t work very well. Observe the following examples: “I need you to take over this project,” or “I want you to meet with the deans,” or “I want you to cover for me at the president’s council meeting.” Spoken or unspoken, the response or thought that surfaces is “Why? That is not my job/responsibility.” If the leader is not careful, power can become the driver and reluctant or malicious obedience the result. The key is to begin with “Why?” This represents the driving force that initiates action. If we return to the earlier examples and insert a “Why” at the beginning of each sentence, we now have, “Dr. Baker has a family emergency and will be gone for several days. I need you to assume responsibility for this project until his return.” Or, “Funding for your proposal is being discussed at the dean’s meeting, so I need you to attend to create context, discuss implications, and answer questions.” Or, “I was just scheduled to attend a meeting with the governor, so I need you to cover for me at the president’s council to clarify our stance on project Y.” Once the “Why?” is clear, volition generally follows. How the task or responsibility gets done should not be discussed until the assignment or task is clear and the reason for doing it is explained. It is a major trap to talk about how something will get done (and by whom) before these other issues are understood.

Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment

Discipline is the key element to building and maintaining order in the work force, yet discipline is essentially negative if not handled properly. This confusion arises in part because discipline as a condition and discipline as an action are not always clearly distinguished.

With Team Members, discipline is not instinctive because they are unable to work together unless they accept rules of discipline of their own making or have such rules imposed upon them by the power of absolute management. Therefore, the manner of enforcement raises the questions of how, for what, and by who, will react in turn upon the morale of the organization as discipline is essential to productivity. The atmosphere in which any organization depends upon to achieve the company goal is not maintained to minimum standards, which will require disciplinary action. In this sense, disciplinary action is applied against the individual because they are failing to do what is expected of them. Such action may range from a warning to the extreme penalty of termination from the company. This traditional “progressive-discipline” approach is universally considered the appropriate response to un-acceptable organizational behavior, but has been replaced by a more progressive approach of what I like to call “Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment.” The new system implies what a company typically references in their statement of corporate mission and vision that enhances the dignity and self-esteem of everyone concerned within the company. Therefore, this process of positive reinforcement, discipline without punishment is a better management skill as it reduces hostility and makes work more enjoyable, not just a task.

What is Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment?

Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment is a method that is used to help correct behavior throughout a company as to not make the same mistake twice. Making a mistake more than once may lead to a negative relationship between manager and employee. For example, if one employee makes a mistake and places the company in a position of possibly losing a client or creating a situation where operating costs increase, the manager should gently sit down and talk to the employee about what he/she has done wrong. If it is the team member’s first time making this mistake, then the manager should not punish them as severely. E.g.: suppose you have an employee named and you have received a complaint about their conduct or they failed to meet the performance objectives required by their position description, then you receive another complaint or more evidence that supports your concerns. Even though you dread it, you know you have to confront the team member to effect changes to the substandard performance. However, as you call them in to discuss the problem, your mind starts racing, “Should I take a softer approach? What should I do if they become offended? What will happen if they try to make me feel guilty for accusing him? Worse yet, they might get angry and make threats to quit.” If you have ever had to discipline an employee for problems like excessive absenteeism, or counsel an employee for performance problems such as missed quotas or careless mistakes, you have probably run up against a similar situation.

To make situations run more smoothly, managers can learn to listen to employees on why a mistake is made and the reasons behind the mistake. The manager can discuss with the employee with an acceptable tone of voice, in a non-threatening manner and draw out some solutions to prevent a mistake from happening again. By communicating and understanding the employee, the employee will respect the manager for being there and being open-minded rather than being cold-hearted and just scolding them about the mistake.

Unfortunately, there is no formula that can be used to make counseling and discipline an easier task; if you are a manager who wants to feel more comfortable when confronting inappropriate employee behavior, you need to learn how to turn around poor performance, conduct more effective corrective sessions, and resolve difficult situations quickly – allowing everyone involved to get back to their assigned tasks. By applying discipline without punishment in the workforce, we can reinforce values, reduce hostility, and the risk of workplace violence. Instead of punishing an employee, you can learn to listen, teach, set an example, be flexible, and conduct corrective actions respectfully. The communication between you, the manager, and your team members is extremely important in all aspects of our businesses.

Traditional disciplinary approach:

The traditional “progressive-discipline” system is a negative and punitive approach to employee discipline. It is characterized by a verbal warning followed by a written warning. If the employee’s behavior does not improve, he/she will be issued an unpaid layoff for several days, which usually results in the employee’s termination. Clearly, this approach is punishment oriented and relies merely on warnings, threats, and suspensions. As outdated and inappropriate as it is, this traditional progressive-discipline is still widely used by most companies today. Ironically, the poor discipline has become institutionalized in some companies. That is to say, that poor discipline becomes the norm.

The old punishment system has a variety of problems that affect everyone and everything within the organization: workers are unhappy, managers have to spend time on each disciplinary grievance, interpersonal relationships between employees and management suffer, and eventually the overall productivity of the company drops. Since this method focuses mainly on the use of penalties or the threat of penalties, what it does is force the workers to live up to the expectations of the company. The discipline, therefore, is externally generated and may not be self-maintaining. The punishment may produce an immediate improvement in the employees’ behavior, but the result is only short-term. The long-term consequences, however, are dangerous. The use of punishment and penalties may cause anger, apathy, resentment, and frustration on the workers’ side and severely affect their productivity. This is how the disciplinary process fits into the overall performance of a company. As we know, the ultimate objective is to maintain growth and prosperity. Therefore, whether or not the discipline system can successfully transform employee satisfaction into productive work, it is extremely important in accomplishing the company’s goals and objectives.

According to a recent workforce survey, “approximately one-third of employees are displeased with how management treats workers. Employees want a positive relationship with management, not an internal conflict.” When the negative disciplinary approach is used, workers become less satisfied and less productive. This will eventually hurt the company as the value to the customer and the Team members starts to become inadequate.

The penalty-driven discipline system usually makes the manager the “bad guy”. Most managers are reluctant to punish the workers because it makes them feel like they are wrong. Instead, they tend to wait until a small misbehavior turns into a crisis. The workers, on the other hand, see the punishment as a personal attack, the manager as a dispenser of punishment, and therefore stop communicating with their supervisors.

Another problem with the traditional discipline approach is that it only generates compliance, not commitment. Effective discipline comes from self-discipline, in which a person changes and reinforces their own behavior without much external influence. If the worker chooses not to change their misbehavior, no matter what the punishment is, he/she will continue to do so.

Unlike the “progressive-discipline” system, Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment is a far more constructive and positive approach. It focuses on rehabilitating workers’ behaviors other than punishing them. This kind of positive discipline involves the creation of attitudes and has an organizational climate that encourages employees to willingly conform to established policies and procedures. The new approach abolishes the unpaid layoff, and replaces it with a disciplinary suspension with pay. The results are very promising. Not only has it helped make workers more responsible, it also fosters employee dignity and self-respect. While punishment usually results in anger and frustration, Discipline without Punishment transforms anger into guilt and responsibility. A paid suspension gives the employee time to think about their behavior and performance, and reminds them of their responsibility for the job and the company. Instead, of suffering from the punishment (loss of paycheck), the person actually has to face a much tougher responsibility of deciding their future performance or future job. In addition, usually, they come back with a better commitment to work, and a clearer mind about what they want for themselves. Without the anger and hostility caused by punishment, the risk of workplace violence is greatly reduced.

On the management side, the new disciplinary method allows supervisors to demonstrate good faith in workers. By communicating with them and giving them time to think through the problem without punishment, managers show the workers that the company is being fair and reasonable. This helps build a healthy interpersonal relationship between the managers and employees, and makes the communication between them a lot easier. As workers become satisfied with their supervisors and themselves, they produce more goods and services. Moreover, they will be more involved in helping the company realizing quality values. Over the years, more and more organizations have realized the shortcomings of the traditional disciplinary system and started to apply the new approach to discipline problems. They have received significant benefits. For example, GTE Telephone operations reduced all grievances by 63 percent and disciplinary grievances by 86 percent in the year after it installed the Discipline without Punishment approach; a Vermont General Electric plant, one of many GE facilities that have adopted the new approach, reported written warnings/reminders dropping from thirty-nine to twenty-three to twelve in a two year period. Another company who has seen remarkable success and use this system is Frito Lay. In an article published in Across the Board Magazine, October 2001, Dick Grote suggests after one year of implementation at Lay’s, termination dropped from 58 to 19 and the following year they were down to only 2 terminations.

Businesses often follow the same etiquette when it comes to how to create discipline. Most often, the discipline will be one to try to keep the employee. However, in the large company situation, punishment may not be avoided, but with the punishment may come the consequence. In the small business, it appears that the more successful ones, follow the simple atmosphere of being able to object to things. Knowing what or when something is wrong to the employee is invaluable to the manager. The discipline is created between the two in possible forms of respect. However, being too comfortable with the employer may encourage laziness in the work, and disregarding the discipline to the work. In the small business, it may be easier to discipline without punishment. Unlike the larger companies, smaller companies are able to be more personal with the employees and create an atmosphere of understanding between team members and the owners, whereas in larger companies it is important that Managers/Team Leader understand and support the creation and sustainment of an atmosphere of understanding.

Discipline in the business world would be an easy thing to achieve, if not for the repercussions that would occur if they were forced upon someone. Whether in the small business firms, or the large corporations, if punishments are incurred on those who need to be disciplined, then the ramifications of the action will follow. Therefore, a discipline without a punishment would be ideal in getting a job done, and possibly finding the respect for the order of operations and goal of the company.

Applying discipline in the workplace and which methods are most preferred:

  1. According to Grote, to create a well-discipline organization, the manager has two primary responsibilities: to recognize and reinforce good performance, and to confront and correct poor performance. By following procedures on “Building Superior Performance,” you can discipline the individuals to be committed to the organization, its mission, its values, and its vision.
  2. Second method is preparing for a coaching session. A coaching session is a serious and planned discussion between a manager and an employee about the need to correct a problem and improve performance. It has specific goals and follows a definite structure. Unlike impulsive or spontaneous casual discussions about problems, a coaching session always involves careful planning in advance.
  3. The third following step is the “Formal Disciplinary Action (Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment)” assuming the problem being dealt with has gone out of control, to the point, where a formative action is taking place, which is similar to a traditional approach.  This procedure has often been used as an example for many companies’ policies and procedure.

What does discipline with/without punishment affect?

The use of punishment produces side effects and long-term consequences – anger, apathy, resentment, frustration – that end up being far more costly than whatever the original misbehavior might be. Plus, the fact that the first-line supervisor seems to face an almost impossible conflict that they are asked to be leaders, teachers, and coaches but also required them to be the dispensers of punishments. We also need to be concerned with the high cost associated with hiring, training and recruiting. At the end, we realize there is no alternative to having a formal and well-understood discipline procedure.

Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment allows supervisors/team leaders/manager not to have to deal with disciplinary actions and many of the team members come from the ranks and are generally related to their subordinates as peers. Using the decision-making allows Leaders to handle even the most serious disciplinary problems without feeling the need to apologize and minimize the workplace violence, allowing the employees to enjoy working and wanting to work in an atmosphere of no disagreements. You can discipline without punishment the individual to improve the skills and master the ability to do what you believe they can do. Maximizing profitability is the main goal in each organization. So, when employees are working as a team, they tend to produce high quality, meet production goals and exceed customer expectations. Discipline with/without punishment affects both in the internal and external environment of the company, but if the internal environment is interfere, the business might collapse as well. Therefore, changing to avoid punishment is more effective than to punish the team member, and never knowing what their abilities are, and what they can positively contribute to the company, and how not providing Positive Reinforcement would be a lost to the company.

Conclusion:

The traditional progressive-discipline system takes a problem employee, punishes the individual, and leaves the organization with a punished problem employee. The Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment system requires the problem employee to become one of two things: either a good employee or an ex-employee. No matter what type of employee, each company conducts discipline differently. There are advantages and disadvantages in carrying out discipline certain ways than others. A wide range of methods are available, it is a matter of how we decided to apply the methods. Applying the disciplinary methods wrongfully can lead to a negative reinforcement, eventually leading to a company downfall. By applying disciplinary methods positively and correctively, team members feel more satisfied working for their team leaders who generally treat them fairly and show appreciation for the value the team member has and for their hard work and efforts. Therefore, good disciplinary skills do pay off. Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without Punishment, when applied positively, provides happier teams and team leaders, it provides a healthier relationship all around in the company. Positive Reinforcement, Discipline without punishment is, and will always be an advantage to everyone in the company.

CREATING TEAMS THAT WORK

When people don’t have all the tools they need to communicate effectively, work teams easily become dysfunctional. At every job level, the skills needed for people to communicate with each other directly, openly, and honestly are missing, more often than not. In the absence of such expertise, a company can be prone to overlook important priorities by focusing on just one operation, one department, one team, or one personal agenda. In addition, team members are likely to misalign tasks with goals and targeted outcomes.

Without open dialogue, the results could have a negative impact on manufacturing, production, customer, financing and many other departments needed for the success in building a strong and profitable company. It is important to remember that productive, successful teams are not accidental. They are the result of purposeful effort by all team members to engage, collaborate, develop, and improve collectively. And while most members indicated that they wanted to be part of a high-performance team, it will not be so easy to make it happen. To be successful you will need to do something significant in terms of training and guidance, before the Team wastes time on fruitless activities and failed to reach desired productivity levels.

The following is a description of the implementation of Teams That Work model.

ONLY TEAM PLAYERS NEED APPLY

For success, you need to have six variables essential to the development and growth of high-performance teams. If a work group fails to adhere to these essentials, time and energy are spent on “people problems,” where defending, blaming, and justifying actions take time away from task accomplishment.

Conversely, when the six characteristics are practiced consistently, the process can create rich context for conversations that improve team performance and organizational productivity. Applying the model also provided the team with a common vocabulary and a way to understand behavior of other team members.

TEAMS THAT WORK

Work groups that exhibit high performance and efficiency generally have these six essential qualities at their core:

  1. High level of trust.
  2. High level of respect.
  3. Commitment to a clear and common purpose.
  4. Willingness and ability to manage conflict.
  5. Focus on results.
  6. Alignment of authority and accountability.

KEEPING YOUR BALANCE

“The Teams That Work model,” is based on the yin-yang concept, with the accomplishment of tasks (what the team does) being contrasted with the ability to effectively work with others (how and why each individual does his or her tasks). Consider the risks to a team when a colleague who is brilliant at task accomplishment can’t collaborate with team members. Likewise, what is the value to the group of someone who can get along with everyone, but is unable to perform tasks at the necessary level? These mismatches demonstrate the kinds of imbalances that cause animosity, missed deadlines, frustration, and overall disconnects in the workplace.

By contrast, in a high-performance team the task and people skills are in balance, meaning all team members have the skills required to work together toward a common purpose. Additionally, everyone in the work group has the ability and willingness to address and resolve behaviors or actions that are counterproductive to the purpose.

In the current higher education environment, with decreasing budgets and increasing workload, the workplace often becomes overwhelmed with a focus on task accomplishment, resulting in hyper stress and burnout. When this happens, the team will actually work harder but accomplish less. Tempers are short, sometimes leading to unprofessional behavior such as coworkers making demands of each other.

The goal is to create a balance between task accomplishment and people skills. This balance does not imply that a team will spend half its time on tasks and half on people, but that it will spend the appropriate amount of time on each. Because there are fewer people issues, a team will actually spend most of its time and effort on task accomplishment.

PROGRESS THROUGH PRACTICE

This will and can be an ever evolving continuous journey, even after using the model for a number of years, you will find value in it because of external conditions and internal staffing changes. For the process to work you will need to commit to, foster and strengthen the six characteristics outlined in the models, which are described below.

1. High level of trust.

Knowing that your colleagues will come through for you is not a feeling you can build at a weekend retreat, it must be created over time as people work and face challenges together.

Every interaction among team members will move their relationships closer to or farther from the goal of trust. While unconditional trust is a lofty goal, it is not necessary to reach that point for a team to work at a high level. All that needs to happen is for team members to consistently demonstrate behaviors that reinforce trustworthiness.

The outcome of this will be the belief that members can rely on each other. With this achieved we are better at asking questions to clarify something rather than questioning a team member’s work or integrity.  The intersections are about creating a context within which team members can collaborate instead of defending or justifying independent behaviors. “The bottom line is that work colleagues can now say, “I trust you, because you consistently do what you say you are going to do.”

However, a single action can completely erode or destroy a trusting environment. Openly criticizing someone in front of his or her peers, for example, is a sure way to accomplish that. When something like this happens, trust is not easily regained. The pattern of expected behavior has been interrupted. The parties involved need to revisit the “people” side of the yin-yang balance and clarify appropriate behavior.

The major benefit of facilitating a trusting environment is that it creates the safety necessary for asking difficult questions and keeping things open and on track. Individuals can let themselves be vulnerable, sharing thoughts and ideas for which they know they will not be personally or negatively judged.

Before an individual takes on that risk, however, all team members need to perceive in each other (a) integrity-the fact that you’ll do what you commit to and in the way the team has agreed to; (b) authenticity-you are transparent, genuine, and not two-faced; and (c) caring-you consistently demonstrate win/win behaviors in the team relationship.

2. High level of Respect.

Respect is linked to the ability to achieve results, with each person having a high regard for the skills and talents of other team members. Sometimes this characteristic is confused with treating one another respectfully. While that is important and always appropriate, respect is tied to the task. The staff want to be able to say, “I have a high regard for your talents, commitments and skills you demonstrate to accomplish our goals.”

We need to take times to celebrate the successes and recognize individual efforts which take place within and across teams, this is even in greater needed when monetary recognition not always available during financially difficult times; and with this the recognition itself can become even more important to the Team Members then financial rewards.

Trust and respect are definitely related, sometimes directly, sometimes conversely. For example, a team member may be trusted as a person but not respected in terms of the ability to perform the job. This situation eventually can erode the overall level of trust others feel toward the person. Similarly, just because a team member is brilliant at his or her job does not mean others will perceive the person as trustworthy.

3. Commitment to a clear and common purpose.

Rather than being presented as a mission statement or a plaque on the wall, the team’s purpose must be articulated such that everyone has a clear understanding of the reason the team exists. Then each individual knows “why we are here,” and can genuinely buy in (“I’ll do whatever I can to make this happen”) rather than exhibit only general interest (“I will do it if it is convenient.”).

Starting with the COO and going on down through department leadership, you need to ask questions that enable you to keep your focus clear, set direction, and help to put everyone on the same page. We work to create an environment where we do not have surprises at any level.

Examples of such questions include:

  • What obstacles could divert our focus?
  • What do we get out of this purpose both individually and as a team?
  • Have we involved everyone affected by our decisions?
  • Is there any part of this you/we cannot support with action?
  • Assuming we have commitment and purpose, how are we going to know if and when we don’t?

To reach commitment to a clear and common purpose, three things must be present. If one is missing, there will most likely be interest but not commitment.

The purpose of the team must be bigger than self. Members will be compelled to give full buy-in only if the team’s purpose makes a positive impact in some way in the world. You need to create a supportive administrative environment where the team can do research and be productive while serving the growth and stability of the organization. The actual articulated purpose for example could be: ‘The Operations Team enhances the Sales effectiveness and long term relationships with clients of the company by delivering excellent, relevant, and seamless support to the client in the areas of on-time delivery, excellence in customer service, quality and accuracy of product delivered, professional and courteous representation, and excellence in resource management.

Building a strong team is like building a house of cards, place all the cards in the right location and the structure will stand, put one card in wrong place, and disrupt the stability of the table or overstress the strength which the cards are intended to support and your house tumbles. Success on building the structure of the house comes from the collective contribution each team member provides. The cards, the table the design, the location, the thoughts and ideas are all contribution made by others and it is not just the efforts of the person assembling the cards that have led to the success of completing the structure. It includes something in it for everyone. If there is a belief or perception that the team exists to support the needs or self-esteem of only one or a few members, it will be impossible to get full commitment from all members.

Leave room for disagreement. People won’t commit to something that doesn’t align with their beliefs and values. So, when determining the Team’s purpose, invite open discussion and even disagreement. This does not mean ongoing disagreement once the purpose is established. Working through negative opinions and disagreement helps clarify the purpose and foster buy-in. Team members generally don’t need to “control” this process, but they need to be able to “influence” it.

4. Willingness and ability to manage conflict.

Conflict typically results from an unmet expectation or a values violation. Although usually unintentional, these are inevitable when two or more people work together. The challenge is not the conflict itself, but how it is managed. When all team members are willing and able to manage conflict well, these situations provide an excellent opportunity to increase the kind of clarity and understanding that improve performance.

So the goal is not to eliminate conflict but to address what is often the elephant in the room, by asking the difficult questions and then effectively managing the resulting conversation. If the issues that trigger conflict are not addressed, it could be because of lack of willingness or skills. Unwillingness indicates a lack of buy-in on the team’s purpose; a lack of skills indicates a need for training on how to ask tough or sensitive questions and conduct a difficult conversation.

For the Operations Team mentioned above they should start out making sure that they address differences and misunderstandings on a timely basis. If a conflict isn’t addressed, they should know it simply would go underground, where it would linger, grow, and negatively influence the development of trust and respect. The challenge is to surface, discuss, and resolve conflict to achieve clarity so that all energy goes into goal achievement and not into protecting or defending individuals or their positions.

Initially, resolving conflict may be counterintuitive behavior for the Team members. But, when they learn that they needed to seek more information during troublesome situations instead of instantly attacking or blaming individuals for things they may or may not have done. A key technique is to avoid pointedly referring to “you” (which is judgmental and places blame), and “asking for” accountability instead of “holding” people accountable.

5. Focus on results.

Team members who are committed to the team’s purpose will want to know how they are doing. This means they will measure the achievements and outcomes of the team’s performance as a way of seeing if its work is supporting department and institution purposes. The tangible benefits of this measurement are: (a) the team will see evidence about the value of its work to the organization and (b) staff will have information to help them determine whether they’re measuring the right things. The intangible benefits include the powerful sense of affirmation and ownership team members will feel when they see results they know they contributed to.

TASK YOUR TEAM TO GET STARTED

How do you begin using the Teams That Work model? Go to your respective Team members, sit down with the individuals for an informal discussion, and encourage them to ask these questions:

  • Which of the six characteristics does our team demonstrate well? How do we sustain these behaviors?
  • Which of the six characteristics does our team seem to lack or not practice very well? How can we strengthen these areas?
  • What do we need to work on first? What two or three actions do we need to take to address organizational issues?
  • When will we follow up on our actions?

Ask everyone on the team to write down his or her answers and then discuss the responses as a group. One option would be to take the time to collate and distribute the answers as prelude to a further discussion. Don’t force the process on the team. Let it be the beginning of the conversation that leads to actions or behaviors that the group needs to (1) keep doing, (2) start doing, or (3) stop doing.

We all want to see our progress and know that our work matters and makes a difference. It is important also to look at some of the intangible things that collecting performance data will not tell us. For example, talking with Sales Teams and Clients enables us to get feedback on our performance that we cannot get via forms or other instruments. It is the little things that move the Company forward and cumulative results that make a difference. This kind of evaluation on a regular basis leads to the clarity that drives execution, achievement, and accomplishment. Such outcomes increase self-worth, commitment, and personal energy.”

6. ALIGNMENT OF AUTHORITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Once there is commitment to a common purpose, team members will need to know their roles in supporting that purpose. Everyone will be responsible to act on defined roles and expectations that are based on four elements:

  • We have the authority we need to do our jobs.
  • We know what we are accountable for.
  • We know why we are accountable for it.
  • We know how to ask for accountability.

Understanding these four elements is foundational for building trust and respect. It allows individuals to go directly to each other when they have problems.

Invariably, things get derailed-something doesn’t get done-and someone must talk to the person responsible, asking for accountability. If someone does not do what he or she promised to do or does not do it at or above the standard or level agreed to, then others must find out why. If they don’t, someone ends up over functioning to make up for the shortcoming of another, and the team no longer performs at the highest levels.

But how can we question what someone did or did not do while retaining trust? The key can be found in the word “ask.” The common expression is to “hold” someone accountable; taking a power position that assumes or suggests someone was not fully committed to the purpose. But, asking is different. If everyone is already committed to the purpose, we can assume mutual commitment and ask for accountability. When done well, this approach supports trust and respect while keeping performance expectations aligned.

Of course, the process can make for high-intensity conversations. The key is not to take a power position. Rather, consider what the Operational Team practices:

  • Start the conversation with  “I,” rather than “you.”
  • State the feeling you have,  (“I’m confused,” or “I’m frustrated”) but make it less intense than what you may actually be feeling. Then pause to let the two of you recalibrate.
  • Explain why you have this  feeling; avoid “you;” use first and third person. Making statements using the word “you” virtually guarantees  defensiveness and resistance. Hence, avoid language like “You said you were going to have this done on time, and you didn’t do it.”  Instead use first and third person-“I’m confused [pause]. The agreement  was a Wednesday deadline; it is Friday and the work is not  completed.”
  • Ask a question to gain clarity.   “Will you help me understand what happened?” When you ask such  questions, make sure your muscles are relaxed and you speak at a normal volume level. Using this tone and perspective allows both parties to retain dignity-particularly you, if it turns out that you happen to be wrong about your interpretation of the situation.

Having a mind-set of mutual responsibility is helpful when asking for accountability. Instead of the typical model, in which all individuals go to the leader with complaints or questions, finance and administration team members go directly to the person involved and search out more details, asking genuine questions to find out why something did or didn’t happen. Once more information comes to light; you can either set a new expectation or reach a deeper level of understanding.

Of course, every work group is unique, with different styles and processes depending on the institutions and the individuals involved. Further complications arise with ad hoc teams that have their own dynamics. Regardless, the key to effective, high-performance work teams is clarification of the common purpose and the behavior expectations. Considering the style of each team member, the ways that you present information to gain commitment, and the method that you evaluate performance and communicate it are all critical. You can either adopt a model that is sequential and rational or work in an environment that is random and unpredictable.

But, remember, productive, successful teams are not accidental. The simple truth is that when the ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ are clear, individuals can enjoy working in a group that pulls together to reach its goals and make a difference.”

A QUESTION OF ORDER

When addressing human resources and performance issues, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the order in which you or someone on your work team asks the questions, “How?” “What?” and “Why?” While the sequence is critical to building commitment, there is a difference in the order that we are paid to do things and the one that gets results.

Typically, leaders start the conversation regarding an assignment or task with “What?” Much to their surprise, simply explaining the task usually doesn’t work very well. Observe the following examples: “I need you to take over this project,” or “I want you to review and negotiate this contract,” or “I want you to cover for me at the next meeting.” Spoken or unspoken, the response or thought that surfaces is “Why? That is not my job/responsibility.” If the leader is not careful, power can become the driver and reluctant or malicious obedience the result.

The key is to begin with “Why?” This represents the driving force that initiates action. If we return to the earlier examples and insert a “Why” at the beginning of each sentence, we now have, “Ms. Smith has a family emergency and will be gone for several days. I need you to assume responsibility for this project until her return.” Or, “Funding for your proposal is being discussed at the meeting, so I need you to attend to create context, discuss implications, and answer questions.” Or, “I was just scheduled to attend a meeting with a client, so I need you to cover for me at the Regional meeting to clarify our stance on project Y.” Once the “Why?” is clear, volition generally follows.

How the task or responsibility gets done should not be discussed until the assignment or task is clear and the reason for doing it is explained. It is a major trap to talk about how something will get done (and by whom) before these other issues are understood.

DEVELOPING A QUALITY CULTURE

As leader of business, you have a powerful influence on the development of your company’s culture. You might not be very aware of your culture, or you may just think of it as “the way we do things around here.” But companies do have culture, and those cultures reflects your values for good or bad: People will adopted your behaviors and your attitudes toward their work.

If you have a cynical or close-minded attitude, your employees will come to believe that such an attitude is appropriate when they are on the job. This does not mean that your attitude is the best way to get things done and please customers. It just means that most employees will adopt it because they will believe that because it is the boss’s attitude, it’s what he or she expects.

Whether you like it or not, you have a major part in shaping a culture that’s best for your company, your employees, and your customers. You have to be aware of your influence and consciously use it to instill values that result in efficiently and effectively delivering quality outputs to customers. The six values for a quality culture reviewed in this article will do this for you. I have put my own interpretation on them based on my understanding, experience, and reading. You should do the same. When you read about the best companies, you will see these values, in one form or another, at their base. Why? Because they work.

Making Your Culture Special

Putting your own interpretation on these ideas is important. You may read books or attend seminars that suggest a formula to follow to change your culture, but when you try the formula it does not work. The reason is that a formula doesn’t address your special problems, your personality, and your experience. You can’t follow someone else’s plan and expect it to work for you.

The plan that will work for you is yours, not mine or anyone else’s. However, you also need to appreciate that values like those covered here are at the heart of companies that are great places to work and companies that keep getting better at serving customers. If I have succeeded in convincing you of this, then take ownership of these ideas and make them your own. Work with others in your company to express them in ways that are consistent with your personality and the needs of your company. Following are some suggestions for doing this.

Steps for Cultural Change

There are various proactive steps you can take to move your culture toward one based on quality values. You first must see the usefulness of doing this, then you can begin to work with others in the company to begin to articulate values and develop policies and procedures that are consistent with them. These can cover such areas as the implementation of teams, the development of open-door policies for communication, and the establishment of regular company meetings to inform every one of what is going on.

To get started, you may want to make some dramatic gestures. One such action is to eliminate most rules concerning time clocks. When people recognize that others depend on them, they will be there. Another is to eliminate assigned parking places or have everyone, from top to bottom, eat together in the company cafeteria. Remember, what you are looking for from people is not compliance with some imposed programs but commitment to the company, which comes with the trust shown when you minimize rules.

You know better than I what kinds of rules and policies get in the way of people’s performance in your company. Use a team to study them and figure out what behaviors and actions will be most consistent with the cultural values you develop. These values will naturally suggest appropriate programs and policies to establish or eliminate.

Training in communication, teamwork, the tools of Total Quality Management, and ongoing skill development are all vital in this transformation process. You need to be an enthusiastic member of the class, as well as a formal and informal teacher.

Set up recognition programs for people and teams. Most such recognition should be more symbolic than material. It should reward behaviors and actions that support the cultural values of “we’re all in this together” or open communication or process improvement and so on.

Other ways to introduce and reinforce culture include legends and symbols. Legends are stories that capture the culture in the acts of certain people who demonstrate a commitment to the company’s cultural values. These may be formal or informal stories passed around the company. Whichever they are, they help people understand what the company is about and what they are supposed to do. Symbols are like a brand name. In one way or another they say what the company is all about.

Legends are found in every company. However, it is important to appreciate that legends illustrate the values of a traditional command and control company as much as they do the kinds of values covered in this article. For example, there might be a story of how the boss got mad one day and fired Harry for coming in ten minutes late without a good excuse. You can be sure that such a story captures the essence of that culture as much as the one I am about to relate.

Be conscious of the special efforts that people take to make your values real, and share those stories with others. They have the potential to become a legend. Take note of special acts of various employees that you might recognize to reinforce cultural values. This is how legends start.

Symbols for a culture can be an animal, a phrase, anything that people can use to represent the culture. One travel agency has adopted the salmon as their corporate symbol, because of its can-do behavior, famous for swimming upstream. They have salmon awards and use this symbol in many different contexts to reinforce their values. You can work with others in your company to come up with one that exemplifies what makes your culture special.

The Commitment of Top Management

The goal in all this is to continuously demonstrate the company’s commitment to its cultural values in a way that makes them come alive for everyone. The single most powerful thing top management can do is show a consistent and unwavering commitment to the values they come up with–in their words and their actions–even when they don’t feel completely comfortable doing so.

Managers are the role model, and when they (and you) walk the talk long enough, pretty soon these values, these ways of operating and viewing the world become standard procedure, no longer dependent on any single person for their vitality. Top management must make that its objective. When it does, managers, as well as their employees and customers.

 

DEVELOPING THE TOOLS NEEDED FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

When people don’t have all the tools they need to communicate effectively, work teams easily become dysfunctional. At every job level, the skills needed for people to communicate with each other directly, openly, and honestly are missing, more often than not. In the absence of such expertise, a company can be prone to overlook important priorities by focusing on just one operation, one department, one team, or one personal agenda. In addition, team members are likely to misalign tasks with goals and targeted outcomes.

Without open dialogue, the results could have a negative impact on manufacturing, production, customer, financing and many other departments needed for the success in building a strong and profitable company. It is important to remember that productive, successful teams are not accidental. They are the result of purposeful effort by all team members to engage, collaborate, develop, and improve collectively. To achieve this it becomes necessary to address the six variables essential to the development and growth of high-performance teams. If a work group fails to adhere to these essentials, time and energy are consumed by addressing non productive efforts in defending, blaming, and justifying actions that are best utilized in achieving tasks and accomplishing goals.
On the other hand, when the six characteristics are utilized as part of the daily operational goals, the team’s energy, dialog, and processes are refocused and create rich environment for conversations that improve team performance and organizational productivity. Applying this model also provides the team with a common vocabulary and a way to understand the behavior of other team members with which they work. High performance teams who work efficiently together are found to have six essential characteristics as their foundation:

  • Increased or heightened levels of trust, in both the leadership and one another
  • High level of respect, in leadership and one another
  • Commitment to a clear and common goal or objective.
  • Readiness and ability to manage conflict, accept responsibility, none focused on assignment of blame
  • Focus on results.
  • Alignment of authority and accountability.

Building the teams that work begin with defining what the team does and how they accomplish their goals and objectives and by contrast with the team ability to effectively work with others (how and why each team member does their tasks). When building teams it is important to consider the risks to a team beyond those commonly looked at during this development stage.  Often focus is on supply, demand, processes, procedures, machinery or equipment needs and delivery of finished goods.  However and more commonly overlooked is the team members themselves. You may recruit a team member who is brilliant at task accomplishment, but is unable or unwilling to collaborate with other team members. Equally, what is the value to the team if they have someone who can get along with everyone, but is unable to perform tasks necessary to meet the team’s objective? These mismatches demonstrate the kinds of imbalances that cause animosity, missed deadlines, frustration, and overall disconnects in the workplace.

By contrast, in a high-performance team the task and people skills are in balance, meaning all team members have the skills required to work together toward a common purpose. Additionally, everyone in the work group has the ability and willingness to address and resolve behaviors or actions that are counterproductive to the purpose.

With today’s business environment, owners and manager are forced to deal with decreasing budgets and increasing workload, the workplace often becomes overwhelmed with a focus on task accomplishment, resulting in increased stress and employee burnout. When this happens, the team will actually work harder but accomplish less. Tempers are short, sometimes leading to unprofessional behavior such as coworkers making demands of each other or outbursts of behavior not typically associated with individual within a group.

The objective is to create a balance between task accomplishment and people skills. This balance does not imply that a team will spend half its time on tasks and half on people, but that it will spend the appropriate amount of time on each. Because there are fewer people issues, a team will actually spend most of its time and effort on task accomplishment.

PROGRESS THROUGH PRACTICE

Increased or heighten levels of trust are based on each team member knowing that the other members will deliver on their goals and objective as promised. Every interaction among team members will move their relationships closer to or farther from the goal of trust. While unconditional trust is a lofty goal, it is not necessary to reach that point for a team to work at a high level. All that needs to happen is for team members to consistently demonstrate behaviors that reinforce trustworthiness.

The outcome will be the belief that fellow team members can rely on one another. With this we are now better at asking questions when something needs to be clarified, rather losing time questioning one another’s work or integrity.  The end result here is now team member trust one another consistently to do what say they are going to do. It is import to remember that a single action can completely erode or destroy a trusting environment. Openly criticizing someone in front of their peers, is a sure way to accomplish this. When this occurs, trust is lost and very difficult to regained. The pattern of expected behavior has been interrupted.

One of the biggest benefit of establishing a trusting environment is that it creates open dialog which is necessary for asking difficult questions and keeping things open and on track. Individuals are more willing to allow themselves to be vulnerable, sharing their visions,  thoughts and ideas for which they have learned that they will not be judged either personal or negative manner.

Before a team member takes on that risk, however, all team members need to recognize in each other (a) honor-the fact that you’ll do what you commit to and in the way the team has agreed to; (b) faithfulness-you are transparent, genuine, and not two-faced; and (c) caring-you consistently demonstrate win/win behaviors in the team relationship.

 

The members must have respect for one another. Respect is linked to the ability to achieve results, with each person having a high regard for the skills and talents of other team members. Sometimes this characteristic is confused with treating one another respectfully. While that is important and always appropriate, respect is tied to the task. Team member and leaders need to be able to say with sincerity and honesty that they I have a high regard for each team members talents and skills which leads to our accomplish the goals and objectives.

With monetary recognition not always available during these highly competitive and uncertain times, the recognition itself has become even more important to staff.  Trust and respect are definitely related, sometimes directly, sometimes conversely. For example, a team member may be trusted as a person but not respected in terms of the ability to perform the job. This situation eventually can erode the overall level of trust others feel toward the person. Similarly, just because a team member is brilliant at his or her job does not mean others will perceive the person as trustworthy.

 

Commitment to a clear and common purpose. Rather than being presented as a mission statement or a plaque on the wall, the team’s purpose must be articulated such that everyone has a clear understanding of the reason the team exists. Then each individual knows why we are part of the team and they understand the importance of their participation. The result is genuinely buy in (Doing what it takes to make things happen”) rather than exhibit only general interest (What is in it for me?).

Beginning at the top and working down through all levels of company leadership, we need to begin to ask questions that enable us to keep our focus clear, direction set, and keep  everyone on the same page. Leadership must work to create an environment where we do not have surprises at any level. Key questions include:

  1. What obstacles could divert our focus?
  2. What do we get out of this purpose both individually and as a team?
  3. Have we involved everyone affected by our decisions?
  4. Is there any part of this you/we cannot support with action?
  5. Assuming we have commitment and purpose, how are going to know if and when we don’t?

To reach commitment to a clear and common purpose, three things must be present. If one is missing, there will most likely be interest but not commitment.

The purpose of the team must be bigger than self. Members will be compelled to give full buy-in only if the team’s purpose makes a positive impact in some way. Include something in it for everyone. If there is a belief or perception that the team exists to support the needs or self-esteem of only some members, it will be impossible to get full commitment from all members.

Leave room for disagreement. People won’t commit to something that doesn’t align with their beliefs and values. So, when determining the team’s purpose, invite open discussion and even disagreement. This does not mean ongoing disagreement once the purpose is established. Working through negative opinions and disagreement helps clarify the purpose and foster buy-in. Team members generally don’t need to “control” this process, but they need to be able to “influence” it.

Willingness and the ability to manage conflict. Conflict typically results from an unmet expectation or a values violation. Although usually unintentional, these are inevitable when two or more people work together. The challenge is not the conflict itself, but how it is managed. When all team members are willing and able to manage conflict well, these situations provide an excellent opportunity to increase the kind of clarity and understanding that improve performance.

So the goal is not to eliminate conflict but to address what is often the elephant in the room, by asking the difficult questions and then effectively managing the resulting conversation. If the issues that trigger conflict are not addressed, it could be because of lack of willingness or skills. Unwillingness indicates a lack of buy-in on the team’s purpose; a lack of skills indicates a need for training on how to ask tough or sensitive questions and conduct a difficult conversation.

Start out making sure that you address differences and misunderstandings on a timely basis. If a conflict isn’t addressed in a timely manner it is like putting dinner on the burner and forgetting about it.  Eventually you will end up with a burnt meal and you will have to start cooking your dinner from scratch.  Unresolved differences or misunderstanding linger, grow, and negatively influence the development of trust and respect. The challenge is to surface, discuss, and resolve conflict to achieve clarity so that all energy goes into goal achievement and not into protecting or defending individuals or their positions.

Initially, resolving conflict can be a counterintuitive behavior for some tem members. But, they learned that they needed to seek more information during troublesome situations instead of instantly attacking or blaming individuals for things they may or may not have done. A key technique is to avoid pointedly referring to “you” (which is judgmental and places blame), and “asking for” accountability instead of “holding” people accountable.

Focus on results. Team members who are committed to the team’s purpose will want to know how they are doing. This means they will measure the achievements and outcomes of the team’s performance as a way of seeing if its work is supporting department and institution purposes. The tangible benefits of this measurement are: (a) the team will see evidence about the value of its work to the organization and (b) staff will have information to help them determine whether they’re measuring the right things. The intangible benefits include the powerful sense of affirmation and ownership team members will feel when they see results they know they contributed to.

So how do you task your team to start? Go to the respective team members, sit down with the individuals for an informal discussion, and encourage the team members to ask these questions:

  • Which of the six characteristics does our team demonstrate well? How do we sustain these behaviors?
  • Which of the six characteristics does our team seem to lack or not practice very well? How can we strengthen these areas?
  • What do we need to work on first? What two or three actions do we need to take to address organizational issues?
  • When will we follow-up on our actions?

Ask everyone on the team to write down his or her answers and then discuss the responses as a group. One option would be to take the time to collate and distribute the answers as prelude to a further discussion. Don’t force the process on the team. Let it be the beginning of the conversation that leads to actions or behaviors that the group needs to 1) keep doing, 2) start doing, or 3) stop doing.

We all want to see our progress and know that our work matters and makes a difference. It is important also to look at some of the intangible things that collecting performance data will not tell us. It is the little things that help  to move a company in a positive direction and those cumulative results that make a difference. This kind of evaluation on a regular basis leads to the clarity that drives execution, achievement, and accomplishment. Such outcomes increase self-worth, commitment, and personal energy.

Alignment of authority and accountability. Once there is commitment to a common purpose, team members will need to know their roles in supporting that purpose. Everyone will be responsible to act on defined roles and expectations that are based on four elements:

  1. We have the authority we need to do our jobs.
  2. We know what we are accountable for.
  3. We know why we are accountable for it.
  4. We know how to ask for accountability.

Understanding these four elements is foundational for building trust and respect. It allows individuals to go directly to each other when they have problems.

Invariably, things get derailed-something doesn’t get done-and someone must talk to the person responsible, asking for accountability. If someone does not do what he or she promised to do or does not do it at or above the standard or level agreed to, then others must find out why. If they don’t, someone ends up over-burdened to make up for the shortcoming of another, and the team no longer performs at the highest levels.

But how can we question what someone did or did not do while retaining trust? The key can be found in the word “ask.” The common expression is to “hold” someone accountable, taking a power position that assumes or suggests someone was not fully committed to the purpose. But, asking is different. If everyone is already committed to the purpose, we can assume mutual commitment and ask for accountability. When done well, this approach supports trust and respect while keeping performance expectations aligned.

Having a mind-set of mutual responsibility is helpful when asking for accountability. Instead of the typical model, in which all individuals go to the leader with complaints or questions, finance and administration team members go directly to the person involved and search out more details, asking genuine questions to find out why something did or didn’t happen. Once more information comes to light, you can either set a new expectation or reach a deeper level of understanding.

Of course, every work group is unique, with different styles and processes depending on the workforce and the individuals involved. Further complications arise with ad hoc teams that have their own dynamics. Regardless, the key to effective, high-performance work teams is clarification of the common purpose and the behavior expectations. Considering the style of each team member, the ways that you present information to gain commitment, and the method that you evaluate performance and communicate it are all critical. You can either adopt a model that is sequential and rational or work in an environment that is random and unpredictable.