Monday, April 29, 2002

Strong teamwork requires skill, focus

The Success Coach

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        QUESTION: We just created a new account with a major international company. This deal is fantastic news for us because it promises more revenue and exposure for our small advertising agency. As the senior account executive, I am extremely anxious to start off this new relationship on the right foot.

        I want to create a team that has the suitable talents and work ethic to accommodate this client. My only problem is that everyone here is so accustomed to working on his or her own accounts and projects. Everyone has different skills and personalities. I'm not quite sure how to encompass all that into a strong team. Any advice?

        ANSWER: The potential — and success — of teamwork has been well-documented for decades. Teams can excel at producing high-quality work, boosting productivity, and inspiring company loyalty.

        But to get these results, it is essential that team relationships be strong. Achieving peak performance from any group takes dedication, focus and discipline. The connections between players need to be reinforced continuously. Here are some important ways you can support stronger team ties and, in return, gain advantages for your organization.

        • Select the right people. It's key that you have the right mix of people on your team. Find those with relevant knowledge, interests and experience. Be sure, too, that each team member has good people skills, enjoys working in a group situation and is eager to collaborate.

        • Foster a teamwork atmosphere. Set ground rules for the team early on. Establish how team members will make decisions, manage meetings, define goals, handle communications and resolve conflicts.

        Creating a cooperative environment is critical to team success. Once the team is working together, they can focus on taking ownership of the mission, strategy and tactics.

        • Encourage team members to speak up. One purpose of teams is to increase individual contributions. A collaborative, open environment will encourage team members to express their ideas and opinions.

        • Be clear about your expectations. Help gain the team's buy-in by clearly stating shared goals and responsibilities. Members need to know what outcomes are expected and what the timeline is. This will help build team cohesion and spirit.

        • Empower your players. Teams do best when they have authority to get a job done. So let them take charge of the assignment. Make sure that minimal limitations are imposed by “the powers that be.” Often, the best thing management can do is stay out of a team's way.

        • Provide the resources your team needs. Take care of the basics. Be sure the team has a place to meet and sufficient time to do the job. To get the project done right may require having access to technicians who can, for example, transform a report into a PowerPoint presentation or a video. You want to make it as easy as possible for players to focus on maximizing the teamwork and delivering results.

        • Communicate. Put guidelines in place for handling routine communications — e-mail, phone calls, memos. Develop a process to see that information gets to each team member fast. Similarly, create a speedy system for communicating updates and feedback. Keeping in touch may be the crucial factor in strengthening team relationships.

        • Celebrate teamwork. Recognize and reward those individuals who excel at teamwork. The form of reward isn't as important as the visible acknowledgement of a job well done. Organizations need regular reminders of the value of team playing and relationship building.

       Michael Crom is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training. For advice on work issues, visit or e-mail


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