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5 Ways to Boost Teamwork Results

Sept. 11, 2012
Teamwork can be toxic under the wrong conditions. These ideas can help everyone come out a winner.

Just as a single failed component can halt production, a disgruntled worker can foil a project. On the line, teamwork is essential for completing necessary tasks.

Yet not all teamwork is equal. A 2008 survey of 1,650 large and medium-sized businesses conducted by Denmark’s Aarhus School of Business showed that implementing teamwork as a corporate value led to losses and often produced “unintended consequences.”

So what does good teamwork look like? In a Harvard Business Review blog post, researcher Tammy Erickson says teams do best when each individual works within a well-defined role but with the freedom to define how day-to-day work is performed.

Proper recognition for a job well done also matters. Another recent study found that 64% of employees leave their job because they feel unappreciated by their manager, Workforce Magazine reports.

So if teamwork can be toxic under the wrong conditions, especially when individual contributions go unrecognized, how about revisiting incentives? Here are five ideas for supporting healthy teamwork:

  1. Create shared interests.Teams will find ways to work together well if everyone has a stake in the outcome. Design team-specific rewards that depend on total team commitment. Meeting an early deadline, for example. For every day the team beats deadline – without compromising quality or requirements – offer an extra day off.
  2. Banish individual evaluations. For all the clichés used to describe teamwork, every good team is made up of skilled individuals who want to be recognized for their contributions. Cater to this impulse, but do so creatively by scheduling team evaluations every six months. Use the opportunity to highlight and reward individual wins in the context of achieving something greater.
  3. Set team targets. No more goals and objectives for each employee. Everyone on the line teams up with a handful of others, with each group working towards a set of goals that, if achieved, will help the company reach revenue and profit targets.
  4. Eliminate one-on-one meetings. Doing so may alienate the spotlight hogs, but eliminating individual sit-downs reinforces the team concept while allowing managers to focus time on team structure, dynamics, and output. What’s more, in stripping away a layer of administration, you’ll be making more time for production.
  5. Make it a sport. Just as in sports, teams need rivals. Define clear and measurable short-term goals for each team on the factory floor. Post progress in common areas, on internal websites, and in newsletters. Make sure everyone knows who is leading and publicly recognize winners.

Teamwork matters, but team dynamics matter more. Create the right incentives, review regularly, and introduce a little healthy competition in the process and everyone -- from employees on down to shareholders -- will come out a winner.

John Mills is executive vice president of business development at Rideau Recognition Solutions, a global leader in employee rewards and recognition programs designed to motivate and increase engagement and productivity across the workforce.

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