Team building is all about getting employees to work productively for others for the good of your business. But is it naive to think that successful teamwork is the result of individuals caring more about the team than themselves? Read about team building is more about managing the Ego than socialising the team experience.
In my weekly scanning of fresh articles and perspective on team building, I came across an interesting piece on About.com in their “human resources” category. Susan M. Heathfield had this to say:
In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture.
For someone writing with an air of authority and experience, Ms. Heathfield is so close and yet so far in her analysis of team-oriented environments. To be sure, from the manager’s perspective, employees contribute to the overall success of the organisation, work effectively with fellow members, and are unified with other organisation members to accomplish overall objectives. However, Heathfield directs her analysis at the worker directly, making this last statement, “The bigger picture drives your action; your function exists to serve the bigger picture,” is patently wrong-heaaded.
Sure, if you’re an ant, bee, or other creature that functions in a hive, colony, or communal organisation, the bigger picture indeed drives your action. This is low low-intelligence organisms manage the intelligence to survive. But when it comes to the animal instincts of the average business professional, their participation in a team environment is a means to an end — it is a participation predicated on personal achievement and job stability that can only be achieved through effectively participating with the team.
In this way, team building has to account for managing the ego as much as it does the entire team.
If you follow this blog on a weekly basis, then you know that we regularly cover both The Apprentice and Mad Men from a team building perspective. And if you watch these television shows, then you know that they represent the ego more than abundantly. But on both shows, we get to see how egos are successfully managed in order to get the job done — and get it done right.
Step one in any team building scheme is simple: think about the team as individuals first. Managers and directors simply cannot afford to think in macros when implementing new polities, work processes, and hierarchical organisations. For the manager, he or she should be in a position to manage personnel on a person-by-person basis, and be sensitive to how new systems should be put into place that manage the individual as much as managing the group. After all, a jaded or scored employee will not give the company there all if they feel undercut professionally.
Where team building can help along these lines is to demonstrate to workers — even if it is implicitly — that their own personal success is not solely staked on their own individual work: while managers are put into a position of evaluating individuals, directors and executives measure success at departmental levels. In this way, the individual can only succeed if the department — and its manager — succeed. Thus, effective team building exploits the talents and strengths of each individual so that their contribution to the team is maximised, while at the same time reliant on the next person in the process in order to it to fruition.
An example of this could be in a company’s creative department, alla Mad Men: the copywriters at Sterling Cooper Draper Price can only see their work succeed if the artists render their copy in a graphic that really pops. And the entire effort can only succeed in the eyes of the client if Donald sells it in his pitch. There is a linear form to the process, and by team building with that form in mind, personal achievement becomes a necessary link in the mechanism of the company.
There’s no doubt that, in a perfect world, employees come to work each day with a sense of loyalty and pride for the company they work for. While that may be true to a degree, acknowledging the underlying ego that drives peoples’ careers — and addressing it in team building efforts — will lead to smarter, for effective teamwork overall.
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