Promoting Teamwork Requires Standards, Not Rules
Much has been written about the importance of teamwork; however, the steps for taking a collection of independently talented people and guiding them to become a cohesive team aren’t always obvious. There are many factors to consider, but one key factor is the use of standards as a substitute for — or, at least, to supplement — rules.
Before I get too far on this subject, I should say, there’s a place for rules. Rules are missives that usually come “from the top,” and everyone is expected to follow them. They’re typically quite specific in nature, and it doesn’t take much principle to know when they’ve been violated.
Here’s a rule, for example: “When cutting metal or wood, always wear goggles.”
That’s an important rule. We can’t have people getting hurt.
Here’s a similar standard, “If you see an unsafe act, stop it.” This one requires some judgment.
The first example illustrates how to help people stay safe. The second illustrates how to build a culture of safety awareness. That’s why I like standards, not rules, for team building.
The process of developing rules reveals what’s important to senior management, while the process of developing standards gives everyone a chance to contribute to what’s important.
Try it. Pull your group of talented individuals together and ask them to share what’s important to them, with regard to how your company does business.
You’re likely to hear ideas such as:
• Trust and believe in each other.
• Exercise collective responsibility.
• Be on time and be prepared.
• Tell the truth, even when it’s difficult.
• Always represent our brand.
• Confront problems with a sense of urgency; don’t let issues linger
• Keep each other informed
A group that develops a list such as this is a group that is making commitments to each other. It’s a group that will hold each other accountable and a group that will let one another know when standards haven’t been met. Sounds a lot like a team to me!
Involving team members in the development of such a list of professional standards gives them more ownership in the creation of shared guidelines, principles, and values. It contributes to personal commitment. Remember: don’t throw your rules or procedures away. Rather, acknowledge that they may have been written long ago and may not have evolved with changing personnel, capabilities, and capacity for decision making.
Agreeing upon a set of professional standards gives everyone an opportunity to refresh and to bond as a group, which is a key component in the process of building any great team.