Engaging Ideas Newsletter • Summer 2010 • Volume 8 Issue 1 Topic of the month: Team Member Engagement

Team Member Engagement
Teamwork is a major factor in succeeding in the workplace. Even if you work in a one-man company, you still will have to work with clients and vendors. The ability to work successfully in groups is a key contributing factor in your success and the success of your organization. The articles in this issue of our Engaging Ideas Newsletter deal with elements of team work and team building.

Breaking Down Organizational Silos With Cross-Departmental Teams

Team work and communication are vital in today's fast-paced business world. It is more important than ever to have your entire organization aligned with the vision and goals of your organization. One way to foster communication and alignment is to create cross-functional or cross-departmental teams. These teams can help open communication that will make your organization agile and quick to respond to a rapidly changing market place. Here are some ways to build and nurture a cross-departmental team.

  1. Keep busy
    Sometimes there is so much going on in a team project that we don't know where to start. It's better to dive in and make something happen than it is to wait and be tentative. Other team members appreciate colleagues who get busy and move the team effort forward.
  2. Cooperate with the inevitable
    Everyone has worked with a team member who overreacted to every crisis, no matter how small. Not only is it disruptive to the team, but it accomplishes nothing. Every organization has inherent, inevitable challenges like production delays, weather, sales cycles, shipping and receiving errors, staffing challenges, and so on. Deal with it.
  3. Try to profit from your losses
    Every team challenge offers an opportunity to create better organizational skills, processes, or relationships. When we view setbacks as opportunities to improve and grow, our attitudes and our chances for success improve dramatically.
  4. Do the very best you can
    When team efforts fail to turn out as planned, we feel stressed and worried. It's even worse when we know that we could have tried harder and done better. When we apply this principle, we guarantee that we will always be able to feel a sense of pride in our work.
  5. Clear your workspace
    A clean workspace clears our mind, just as a cluttered, disorganized workspace confuses us and slows us down. Most of us have common workspaces that we share with others. We help the entire team by keeping those spaces organized and cleaning up after ourselves.
  6. Prioritize
    Being a member of a work team often means being in the center of shifting priorities. One of our most important challenges is to sort out those priorities and act on them as quickly as possible. This might mean negotiating conflicting priorities within the team. Other members of the team respect and understand shifting priorities when we explain them thoughtfully and honestly.
  7. Solve problems then and there
    Procrastination undermines effective teamwork. As team members, we feel anxious and stressed when responsibilities pile up. Other team members appreciate in us an ability to get things done and move on.
  8. Put enthusiasm into your work
    Everyone has worked with a team member whose lack of energy and enthusiasm brings down the rest of the team. Despite setbacks, obstacles and frustrations, it is our responsibility as team professionals to maintain our own personal level of enthusiasm and to take on our responsibilities with an upbeat attitude.
  9. Expect ingratitude
    In today's professional work environment, everyone on the team is expected to work hard and do their best. There isn't necessarily someone telling us what a great job we are doing. In fact, many people may not fully appreciate how much work we do to further the team effort. Waiting for compliments can be an exercise in frustration. When we don't expect gratitude, it means even more when we get it.
  10. Don't fuss about trifles
    One of the keys to being an effective team member is having the ability to keep things in perspective. There is rarely enough time for any of us to get worked up over insignificant issues. As a team professional, we sort out the important concerns from the unimportant ones and avoid wasting time.

Building Enthusiasm & Establishing Accountability With Your Team

Generating personal and collaborative enthusiasm is one of the key ingredients of the team process and is essential to establishing our team.

Getting off to a fast start and then maintaining enthusiasm over time will reap results for the organization. A well functioning team is able to do this even when there are roadblocks and obstacles in its path.

Often individuals on a team develop a tenacious determination to prove that the team can achieve the vision regardless of the barriers. Planning for roadblocks can give people the courage to move forward and take risks.

Creating and launching teams is not something that can be accomplished casually. Research on airline cockpit crews shows that team functioning rather than mechanical problems is the cause of most airline accidents. This is especially true when the team is first starting out.

There are critical points in the progress of a team when accountability can make or break a successful outcome. At the beginning stages of the team, deciding and implementing different methods of accountability can make the project or the plan seem fresh and interesting.

Ideas for accountability include:

  • Team meetings
  • Accountability partners
  • Timelines
  • Project plans
  • Check sheets
  • Virtual meetings
  • Copying the team on all communication
  • Training sessions

Managing Across Generations

Much is made of management across generations. One of the hottest management topics right now is "How to Manage Generation Y." Although each generation has its special characteristics, there are more than a few universal management techniques that can be applied to employees of any generation.

  • A positive relationship with one's manager
    The Human Resource Development organization reports that in a recent Gallup survey of 400 companies, an employee's relationship with his or her direct boss is more responsible for retention than pay or job perks. Fair and inspiring leadership, including coaching and mentoring, retains employees. Another Gallup survey revealed that a key indicator of employee satisfaction and productivity is an employee's belief that the boss cares about them and can be trusted.
  • Recognition and appreciation
    Some people are driven more by other forms of incentives than by money. In a study by Employee Retention Headquarters, appreciation and involvement are cited more than money as what keeps employees happy. They need to be convinced, verbally and nonverbally, that management respects their positions and that they are important to the success of their organization. They enjoy celebrating milestones and victories, publicly and privately, verbally and in writing, promptly and sincerely.
  • Stimulating and fulfilling work
    In the 2003 October ASTD newsletter, Blessing White's "State of the Career Report" suggests that for most workers today, stimulating and valuable work is more important than salary and advancement. It's hard to put a price tag on enthusiasm and excitement for a job. People who foster involvement of employees and include them early on in projects obtain more creative ideas and create greater employee investment and pride in the outcome. Employees who actively participate in making decisions on a broad spectrum of issues help create an environment that they like and one in which they want to remain.
  • A clear career path and growth opportunities
    By providing opportunities for growth both personally and professionally, employees are less likely to look elsewhere. Providing training opportunities, with respect to new skill development and career development, is an indication that a manager is willing to invest on behalf of the employee. This is key to employee retention. Encouraging employees to join professional organizations by paying the membership fee and giving employees the time off and admission fees needed to attend lunches and conferences motivates employees. Organizations that have a high retention rate have a reputation for hiring from within. A jointly agreed upon career path (not necessarily "up" the hierarchy) will gain the commitment of employees and their buy-in for organizational goals and direction.
  • Managers who respect a balanced life
    Organizations that promote a balanced life have higher retention than those that promote that the employee should eat, breathe, and sleep work. Acknowledging and respecting the importance of family and personal life prevents burnout and fosters loyalty. According to the Human Resource Development organization, employers need to be aware of quality of work life issues. They must be willing to offer flexible schedules and be sensitive to dual career, childcare, and parent care challenges.
  • Competitive compensation and benefits
    Money is important but it is less important than you might think. Employees expect to be paid fairly and competitively. They feel entitled to the standard benefits of health insurance and retirement plans. In a survey of food companies, 92% of respondents indicated that a $10,000 annual salary increase would not prompt them to change employers if they were receiving personal and professional development coaching.



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