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Establishing A Culture Of Teamwork

Why do so many businesses fail to establish effective teamwork? After all, most business leaders talk about teamwork, scores of books have been written about teamwork, and teamwork posters adorn the walls in many businesses. With all the buzz about teamwork, why don t more businesses move beyond merely talking about it? The key to developing a collaborative workforce is to establish an effective culture that builds teamwork into the fabric of the organization.

Four key concepts, when effectively executed, can transform any organization into an effective team. Each step must be championed and demonstrated by the company s leaders, and these keys must become essential factors in the determination of raises, bonuses, and promotions. In business, we get what we reward. If we want to establish effective teamwork, we must be willing to recognize and reward good teamwork. King Solomon wrote, Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.

The first key to effective teamwork is a culture that rewards team goals ahead of individual goals. We are instructed to bear one another s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, NASB). If salary reviews are based primarily on individual performance, we will likely see little genuine teamwork. When priorities clash, employees will focus on their own work load and their own priorities, and ignore others. One company selling mining machinery established bonuses based on total sales. When a sale was consummated with assistance from a production or engineering staff member who helped to explain the technical aspects of the equipment, an assist was awarded. These assists became a factor at the employees the next evaluation. It wasn t long before teamwork improved and sales increased.

The second key to establishing effective teamwork is to reward employees who volunteer to help others achieve their goals. When the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee and encountered difficulty, Jesus, seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them . . . came to them, walking on the sea (Mark 6:48, NASB). When we see that the wind is against a colleague, we need to be ready to help, and pitch in without being asked. One company s call center struggled with a wide fluctuation in call volume. At times, they would get slammed with too many calls, and at other times it was quiet. The accounting manager suggested cross-training accounting staff to handle telephone orders during peak times, and teaching the order takers to do some accounting tasks when the phones were silent. Each time someone crossed over to help out, they were congratulated. As productivity and customer service improved, both the accounting staff and order takers received increases in salary. The accounting manager and call supervisor also received an increased bonus as a result.

Interacting effectively with others is the third key to establishing genuine teamwork. Effective interaction starts with availability for meetings, and to return phone calls and email messages. The prophet Isaiah gave us a wonderful word picture of effective interaction on the job: So the craftsmen encourages the smelter, and he who smoothes metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil (Isaiah 41:7, NASB). Clearly, without a good product from the smelter, the finished product would be poor.

Solving problems at their root cause, rather than just making do, promotes a culture that enhances effective interaction. When issues arise, colleagues must let down their defenses and focus on what when wrong, and why. Teamwork results when team members listen with respect to each other and nobody is defensive. When leaders genuinely listen and demonstrate that all issues are open to discussion, others on the team will follow their example.