Nothing influences behavior more than your behavior at the top. You are the role model and your actions, not the slogans on the wall, will influence how others behave. A collaborative environment that encourages working together for a common purpose, within and among teams, is important to your organization’s success. Here are some strategies that will make this happen:
Cultivate a cohesive team
– Know when to step in and when to stay out of team conflicts. A certain amount of disagreement is normal in any team. But if a conflict between two or more employees is polarizing the group, interfering with communication (for example, employees refusing to speak to or work with each other), or using up an unacceptable amount of time and energy, it may be time for you to step in. If you don’t feel you have the skills to mediate effectively between employees (or if you feel that you shouldn’t be involved), consider bringing in a skilled mediator.
– Plan occasional team events that let people get together without the pressures of work. These might be a monthly lunch to celebrate team members’ birthdays or a semiannual off-site planning day that includes time to socialize. Be creative if you have budget constraints. Ensure that these are events that everyone can participate in.
Minimize the impact of a destructive team member. If you inherit a problematic employee or hire someone who turns out to have negative effects on the team’s morale, find out what is interfering with that person’s ability to be a positive, productive worker.
– If the problem is solvable (for example, maybe the person would be happier transferring to another area), do what you can to resolve the situation.
– If the person must stay, make clear your expectations for improvement and, if necessary, what the consequences might be if no improvement is forthcoming.
– If you are simply stuck with a negative employee whom you can’t terminate, do what you can to minimize this person’s effect on others (for example, assign tasks the employee can do on his own).
Be loyal to your employees. Remember that loyalty is a two-way street.
– Be the voice of your team at the management table. If you don’t promote their needs and give voice to their opinions, no one else will. However, ensure that your employees know it is your role to balance their needs with the needs of the organization.
– Share the credit with your team for its achievements and ensure that those above you know about its successes.
– Don’t publicly point a finger when something goes wrong. If one or more team members have let the team down, address the situation with those people, but don’t broadcast it at meetings or chastise the whole team for the actions of one or two.
Promote team problem solving
– Strike a balance between sharing with your employees challenges that they need to know about and burdening them with or dwelling on problems they can’t do much about.
– Be accessible for consultation with your employees if problems arise, but don’t micromanage. Encourage them to consult with each other for collaborative problem solving.
– Establish a guideline that whenever employees bring you a problem, they are expected to also bring you at least one possible solution.
Balance peak work periods with some rewards.
– Recognize when your people are putting in extra effort. Acknowledge and thank them in a way that seems appropriate. Many people appreciate handwritten notes from the boss.
– Give tangible rewards when it’s practical and appropriate.
– Celebrate the completion of a demanding project. Acknowledge special efforts or contributions made by individuals, but ensure that the team is also recognized as a unit.