These tips will help you build teams that deliver better results for your company and your customers.
The only way to move mountains for your business is by leveraging the collective brainpower (and, sometimes, muscle power) of a group of employees. But it can't just be any old group. To truly move mountains, you need to build your teams wisely.
Here are five ways to turn a ho-hum team into one that's engaged, productive, and consistently getting results:
1. Get the Right People on Board Not necessarily the smartest people, nor the people with the thickest resumes -- you want the right people for the particular team you’re putting together. If, for example, you’re working on a new internal process for tracking customer orders, then be sure you’ve got some of your top salespeople on the team, not just your accounting or shipping staff. Your salespeople are the ones who know your customers best and who understand the pain your customers feel when orders are delayed or lost.
2. Delegate Real Authority There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the need to empower employees and to get them engaged in their work, but the truth of the matter is that in many organizations, true empowerment is still just talk, not action. Research clearly shows that empowered employees are happier, they’re more creative, they’re more effective, and they produce more than their unempowered colleagues. So when you give a team an assignment, make sure they have the authority they need to complete it.
3. Shake Things Up If you’re only seeing familiar faces in all of your meetings, it’s a sure sign that you need to shake things up. Jumpstart your teams by pulling together diverse groups of people drawn from different parts of your organization. Former Walt Disney Company vice chairman Roy Disney told this story about his famous uncle Walt: "There’s an old story about Walt from the early days when we were making short subjects -- really just a collection of gags. Every week, Walt had a gag contest and everybody was free to enter -- the winner got $5, which was a lot of money during the Depression. And who kept winning, week after week? The janitor. You see, it’s not about who’s the boss. It’s about who’s got the best ideas."
4. Get Out of the Office Instead of meeting in the same old tired conference room, drinking the same old tired coffee and eating the same old tired donuts, take your meetings on the road. Meet in a courtyard outside of your building, a local park or Starbucks. Better yet, meet at a key customer’s facility and work with them collaboratively on a problem of mutual interest.
5. Celebrate Your Successes When your team accomplishes the goals you set for it, then take some time to celebrate. Encourage members of the team to create awards for one another, and set a small budget to pay for inexpensive mementos of the occasion -- such as coffee mugs or T-shirts with your company logo -- to hand out at the final team meeting to each team member, along with your sincere thanks.
Employee teams are an extremely powerful and important tool for getting the most out of the most important resource you have: your human resource. But effective teams don’t just happen by themselves. The time you put into building great teams now will be rewarded many times over down the line.
PETER ECONOMY is the best-selling author of Managing For Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 60 other books. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years. @bizzwriter