When your employees work together to achieve common goals, everyone wins--you, your business and your customers.
Employee teams are one of the best ways to get things done in any business. When you take a group of independently talented people and create a team in which they can merge their talents, not only will a remarkable amount of energy and creativity be released, but their performance, loyalty and engagement will be greatly improved.
Here are five steps for building an extraordinary team culture:
1. Create a Team-Oriented Organization
Make teamwork one of your core company values, and put a clear emphasis on self-managing teams that are empowered to make their own decisions. Don't just talk about teamwork. Show your employees the seriousness of your commitment by giving teams the authority to get their jobs done on their own terms, while ensuring they accept responsibility for the results.
2. Assign Serious Team Goals
Give your teams really important assignments and projects, not just planning for next summer's annual company picnic. Bring teams in when you're looking at new trends in the market, or need to see things through new eyes. It's important to mix it up and not have the same people making the same decisions all the time. Ask them to challenge the status quo and the conventional wisdom. This will help to keep your company fresh and ahead of the game.
3. Encourage Informal Teams
More work in organizations is accomplished through informal teams than formal ones. It's therefore in your interest to encourage the proliferation of informal teams throughout your company, addressing any and all issues and opportunities that capture their interest. When your employees are able to tackle concerns themselves, without elevating every little decision to top management, you'll have a much more efficient organization.
4. Cross-Train Employees
When employees understand how different areas of the company work, they are more apt to make decisions that benefit the company as a whole, rather than solely their own department or group. Give your employees the opportunity to learn other people's jobs. Some organizations go as far as switching employee roles on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. And don't forget your managers. Have top executives spend a few days working on the front lines with customers or directly with your product. They'll have a new appreciation for what your regular employees go through on the job.
5. Provide Team Resources
No matter how talented a company's individuals might be, teams cannot be successful without the proper resources. Teams need a designated and available place where they can regularly meet. Nothing much can be achieved in an over-crowded lunch room. All employees need to be given adequate time to devote to their team meetings, with no grief from supervisors. And make sure to supply your teams with an appropriate budget if required, and the permission--with guidance--to spend it as they see best for the company.
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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