Improving Team performance

Encouraging Greater Teamwork – Link Performance to Individual and Team Benefits

Barbara Brown, PhD asked:

Given that teamwork is mostly about what benefits the team, how do you encourage individual team members to do their best?  You explain how performance that benefits the team also benefits the individual. For example, suppose you wanted individual team members to:

1. Meet deadlines for completing individual team tasks in a more timely manner

2. Demonstrate greater flexibility when faced with changes to team goals, practices, or members

3. Communicate changes in individual plans to team members in a more timely manner

4. Support viable decisions adopted by the team, even if own suggestions were not adopted

5. Work more effectively with team members to overcome obstacles to team performance

You could explain to the individual employee how any or all of these behaviors could lead to:

1. Increased productivity for the team and the individual

2. Improved ability to meet deadlines for the team and the individual

3. More opportunities for the individual to take on different or desirable roles within the team

4. Faster resolution of team and individual workload problems

5. Improved ability of the team and the individual to make timely adjustments to personal or professional plans

This approach allows you to reframe the discussion about teamwork. Instead of focusing on team benefits, you focus on mutual benefits. In some instances, the benefits may even be greater for the individual than for the team. But individuals will not necessarily know that unless you link these benefits during discussions about teamwork.

Develop your own list of mutual benefits by thinking about the things employees complain about regarding teamwork. Can you use any of these complaints to justify improved or continued teamwork?  You probably can. Most employees want to work in a congenial environment. They want to make positive contributions and they want others to do the same.  

And while every employee is not always going to do his or her fair share, ignoring the problem does not make it go away.  Likewise, you are not necessarily going to get better teamwork by threatening or demanding that employees work for the good of all team members. Thankfully, you have other options, like focusing on the mutual benefits of greater teamwork. Try this approach the next time you want to encourage more positive team contributions. The results may surprise you.



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