Motivate your employees to pull together

Too many people – management and employees alike – pay lip service to the teamwork concept. “Teamwork” looks good in company slogans and fits nicely into speeches. But the word usually means getting someone else to cooperate with you. Unfortun-ately, every one else on the team feels the same way!

Individuals work for the achievement of personal goals, promotions, raises, benefits and recognition. Today’s economy has made competition for these goals more fierce, with an obvious result – workers are even less willing to be team players than ever before. And managers often contribute to this situation by espousing “teamwork,” yet rewarding individual performance.

How can you nurture the individuality of group members and still get them to work as a goal oriented team? Begin by rewarding cooperation as highly as you reward individual achievement. One manager admits he “rewarded people who grabbed my attention by grandstanding,” and then wondered why his staff couldn’t pull together when the situation required it. “I had helped create a highly competitive star system without even realizing it,” he says.

The manager was able to change this and develop a cooperative spirit through a unique plan.

First, he divided his staff into several small teams. Without saying anything, he subtly encouraged competitiveness among the groups. This meant that group members had to cooperate with each other in order to compete with the rival groups. The resulting cooperative spirit was praised by this manager as highly as individual achievement had been in the past.

Some people became better team workers than others, and their groups were awarded with choice assignments. Soon, most staff members were able to work well in group assignments and individually. Even when they were working alone, this manager explained individual tasks in conjunction with department goals.

“They began to appreciate the connection between their own work and department goals,” he says. “People who can subordinate personal goals to larger group goals merit extra consideration in raises and promotions now.”

Most employees still want to be stars. They need individual recognition. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as everyone has a chance to play the star. Like Oscar winners, those stars should be able to concede the importance of other contributions to their solos.

Review Time

The ability to work as part of a team often is included on individual employee appraisal forms. People take teamwork more seriously if they’re actually evaluated on their ability in this area. By making this part of general evaluation, a manager or supervisor has the chance to discuss the unwillingness or inability to cooperate during regular evaluation conferences. One area supervisor found her section’s goals and quotas were easily met when this new category was added to appraisal checklists.

But no matter what else you do to encourage teamwork, setting a personal example is critical. Share information with employees as fully as possible. Allow them to participate in the decision-making process. Give consideration to ideas and suggestions about workplace changes. And when you receive recognition for the department’s work, share that credit and glory, too.

According to a personal director with 20 years of experience, “Teamwork, like communication, is a two-way street. Managers forget to listen sometimes, and they also forget to cooperate. A manager who works against, rather than with, counterparts in other departments is setting a negative example for the staff.”

Teamwork Checklist

You want to pull 10 competitive individuals into one goal-oriented group. They seem unable to subordinate their own ambitions to group goals. Examine your own teamwork attitude by answering the following questions:

  • Do I reward teamwork through praise, choice assignments, raises and promotions just as I do outstanding individual achievement?

  • Do I include teamwork on evaluation sheets and discuss the employee’s performance in this area at conferences and meetings?

  • Do I rotate special assignments, giving everyone a chance to shine occasionally?

  • Do I consider employees’ ideas?

  • Do I share information, decision-making and the credit for a job well done

  • Do I cooperate with others?

The ability to put self-interest aside and make company goals first priority is crucial today.