Teamwork

Unwritten Rules Determine Teamwork Success

Why do interviewers care so much about teamwork?

being a team playerIn 2012, Google launched an internal initiative called Project Aristotle with the goal of pinpointing what makes a great team at Google.

Project Aristotle researchers studied a broad range of characteristics of successful groups and teams within the company, including personality, hobbies, relationships with each other outside of work, and various demographic variables. Surprisingly, the results showed there was no real evidence that such characteristics made a difference in a team’s success.

The major breakthrough came when the researchers began to focus on “group norms,” or the unspoken and often unwritten set of informal rules that govern individual behaviors in a group. They found that the most successful teams shared a similar understanding and commitment to how they interact with each other.

According to a New York Times article about the Project Aristotle initiative: “One team may come to a consensus that avoiding disagreement is more valuable than debate; another team might develop a culture that encourages vigorous arguments and spurns groupthink. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals—they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently—but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team.”

It’s an interesting case study that highlights an important trend in organizational development that focuses on group dynamics and building stronger, more productive teams. In fact, in Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Study, 32% of respondents said they are redesigning their organizations to be more team-centric, which is also driving trends in performance management to “shift from focusing just on an employee’s individual achievements to evaluating their contribution to a team and the team’s impact on driving overall business goals.”

Just as important as focusing on the strategies that make a team work, is avoiding the things that bring team progress to a screeching halt, including these common workplace teamwork killers.

  • Undefined goals: A clearly defined, common goal not only serves as a target to work toward, it also helps unite team members with an understanding of how their hard work will affect the company overall. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce study, “employees who strongly agree they can link their goals to the organization’s goals are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged.”
  • Poor leadership: Great team leadership is an essential, but difficult skill to master. In the Center for Creative Leadership’s The State of Teams study, some of the top skills participants identified as essential to effective team leadership include management skills, interpersonal skills, setting direction and building commitment.
  • Lack of trust: In his best-selling book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” leadership and organizational development expert Patrick Lencioni writes, “… it is only when team members are truly comfortable being exposed to one another that they begin to act without concern for protecting themselves. As a result, they can focus their energy and attention completely on the job at hand, rather than on being strategically disingenuous or political with one another.”
  • Lack of accountability: According to Gallup, only “three in 10 employees strongly agree that their associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.” Holding each other accountable to completing assigned tasks is an important group dynamic that must be established from day one.

4 Quick Tips for More Effective Employee Communication

Business People Sitting in an Office Building Having a MeetingMost companies dedicate a significant amount of research, planning, and money to communicating with their customers. If a message isn’t crafted just right or the proper channels aren’t used to reach a target audience, there’s a good chance a lot of hard work and effort will go to waste.

The same holds true when communicating to your internal audience. When it comes to conveying important messages to your employees, the extra effort spent ensuring you hit the mark the first time, every time, is the key to keeping your workforce informed and on the same page.

Here are four quick tips for more efficient internal communication with your employees.

Know your audience
In the modern workplace, it’s possible there are as many as five different generations working side by side, each with their preferred ways of communicating. So, it’s important to consider the various communication tactics will ensure your message is retained.

For example, traditionalists, or those born before 1942, tend to have great respect for hierarchy, and would likely be more receptive of communication that comes through an established channel that goes from the top down. Whereas, younger generations, like millennials (born between 1980 – 1996) and Generation Z (born after 1996) often eschew more formal structures and would prefer a less structured and more open path of information.

Even types of jobs can dictate how an employee would best receive communication. The IT department may prefer one type of communication and the marketing department another. The key point is that it’s important to know your audience first, then tailor fit a communication plan that gives the best chance of your message being correctly received by employees.

Set a standard
From email to phone calls to text messages to in-person meetings, your employees are bombarded by a wide range of information throughout the day. That’s why consistency is key when it comes to effective communication. Setting standards for how certain types of messages will be disseminated through the workforce not only helps establish a recognized portal for communication, it also helps eliminate misinformation that comes through “the grapevine.”

Setting up an internal company blog or message board is one method to centralize official internal communication. If you set the standard that important messages will be posted in one, easy to access location, your employees won’t have to worry about whether or not information they received from other sources is accurate.

If you do have a central hub for internal communication, it’s important to stay active. Without the expectation of consistency and access to current content, your employees won’t see it as a useful source and will fall back to less effective means for seeking out company news and information.

Be timely and concise
Gossip and rumors spread like wildfire through a company. Without timely and concise communication, employees are left to build their own narrative, so it’s imperative to be the first source of information. The more time your employees have to make uninformed assumptions based on “the word on the street,” the harder it will be to sort fact from fiction later.

In addition to being timely, it’s also important to leave little room for interpretation—that is, make all communications as concise as possible. In most cases, less is more. If it’s a written message, optimize for readability by using bullets and subheads. If you’re delivering a verbal message, be sure to stop occasionally to check for understanding from your audience and be sure to call out key points.

Give employees a voice
Communication works best when it’s reciprocal. Fostering an open forum where employees are not only able, but feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback is the best way to build understanding. It’s important to gauge whether or not your communication techniques are successful and your workforce is extracting the right information. Providing an opportunity to voice their interpretation of a message will make you feel confident they understand the information, as well as help pinpoint the most effective techniques for getting your point across.

 

 

 

 

How to Survive a Millennial Manager

He watched The Office you watched Cheers—how do you communicate?

Tips_For_Working_With_Younger_Boss_Dec2013

It’s happening across the nation. As baby boomers start to retire (the ones who can, anyway), the millennials are closing in. They like to job hop, and it’s hard for companies to get them to stay. This generation spans fifteen years, and many have built a career and are already getting promoted. Now one is your boss. He can’t stop talking about virtual reality and you miss the simplicity of an age before social media.  It doesn’t seem like you’re ever on the same page.

But does it really matter if you get along with your younger boss as long as the work gets done? As noted by The Washington Post, the answer is a resounding yes. A study was recently published in the Journal of Organizational Psychology that surveyed 8,000 employees from 61 German companies. The results showed that a higher percentage of younger people managing older employees resulted in a 12% increase in negative emotions. And those negative emotions, in turn, led to less than stellar manager reports in regard to financial and organizational performance.

How are you supposed to take orders from someone who reminds you of your child?

1.       Steer Clear of Judgment

No two career paths are identical. This holds true regardless of age. All workers have different experiences and skills that lead them to where they are in life. Even if your boss is younger, try to trust that she gained the position for a good reason. Regardless of whether or not that reason was because of “who she knew” or not, it’s out of your hands. So try to assume the best.

After all, assuming the worst isn’t going to help anyone, even if it turns out to be true. Being younger doesn’t mean your boss is going to be a bad manager. Despite her age and fewer years on the job, she may have a variety of unique skills that make her a great boss.

Of course, it’s also quite possible that you’ll eventually come to find out that she’s wholly unprepared for the position. Even then, avoid complaining.  It’s still in your best interest to get along—you may even want to help guide her in the right direction.

2.       Become an Advisor

Regardless of whether your new millennial pal is well-suited for his new position, he’s probably not going to know as much about the industry as you do. You’ve been working longer, so you know who the players are and how they operate. You can draw on these past experiences and apply them to current events, imparting knowledge to your manager.

All of these things are incredibly valuable to a young manager. Although his tools may be sharp, he might not know how to use them yet. You can help him avoid first time mistakes by giving him advice and sharing the wisdom of your past experiences. Just be sure to come across as a helpful advisor rather than patronizing. Think of your manager as a co-worker and peer rather than an inexperienced child.

3.       Be Open to Communication

The key to any relationship is communication. So make sure to talk! If you play it right, you can create a real connection with your younger boss. Embrace team-building activities and really get to know her. Maybe take her out to lunch once in a while. If she really is out of her element with this position, she’ll want a co-worker she can trust and rely on. And, once you become familiar with her on a personal level, it can really change the dynamic—you start to see her as an actual person rather than “The Millennial.”

Do you have a younger boss? How do you handle it? Let us know about it in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Break the Millennial Mold

MillenialsJobSearch_Sept2013_webEach generation has a stereotype. There’s the Traditionalists, the Baby Boomers, and the Generation Xers. Now, as more of the generation known as Millennials enters the workforce, stereotypes are increasingly prevalent.

You’ve probably heard the stereotypes about Millennials, or those born between approximately the years of 1980 and 2000. They’re seen as entitled, needy, self-absorbed, and privileged. They’re known as job-hoppers and “the trophy generation.” They’re famous for technology addiction.

If you’re a Millennial who doesn’t feel like part of that stereotype, you’re not alone. Research conducted by Beyond.com shows that it takes more than a feeling to shut down those stereotypes. In order to get bosses or potential employers on your side, you have to prove that you can break the Millennial mold.

Be a team player

In a national survey of Millennials and veteran HR professionals, Beyond.com uncovered striking differences in the perceptions of this generation. For example, the survey revealed that 60% of Millennials identify as team players, but only 22% of HR professionals think the generation works well on a team. In other words, recruiters think only one out of every five applicants possesses the ability to work well with others.

You can prove that you’re one of those team players by showcasing your experience working in teams and highlighting those skills in interviews or through networking. If you volunteer with local organizations, share how those experiences helped you grow. Explore your role as a team member in any school projects or previous jobs and explain how you worked well with others. If you can, collect references and letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your specific teamwork skills.

Communicate well

65% of surveyed Millennials believe they possess great interpersonal communication skills. However, only 14% of HR professionals agree. With such a large gap in perception, you have a significant opportunity to stand out from the crowd and break the mold.

Start by brushing up on your communications skills. Consider taking an online class in important communication practices. Join a group like Toastmasters to advance your public speaking experience. Or, read articles and books that share tips about communicating with older generations, as well as communicating through email, phone, and writing. By taking the extra step to learn these important skills, you not only become a more well-rounded employee, but also show recruiters and potential employers that you possess the initiative to grow.

Work harder

If you consider yourself a hard worker, you’re not alone. 85% of surveyed Millennials identify with the trait, in contrast to only 11% of HR professionals who believe the generation works hard. To further break that number down, only one in 10 Millennial jobseekers is perceived as a hard worker by potential employers. While this may sound disheartening, it means there is room for you to stand out.

One of the easiest ways to break the Millennial mold is to simply give your best every day. Luckily, you don’t have to be an existing employee to prove your work ethic to an employer. Start before you are hired by building a network of professionals who will speak to your skills. By showing up to work on time, staying late when a job needs to be finished, or taking on extra assignments, people will notice that you’re a hard worker. And chances are, they’ll be willing to serve as a reference or write a recommendation for you in the future.

Be a leader

Even if a leadership role isn’t on your current career path, it’s important to sharpen your leadership skills if you want to stand out. Less than half of Millennials identify as leaders (40%), but even fewer (9%) of HR professionals recognize leadership potential in younger employees.

As older generations begin to retire and exit the workforce, it will be up to Millennials to fill the void. Employers recognize this and make hiring decisions accordingly. They look for new employees who show leadership potential, have skills that make them great mentors, and aren’t afraid of challenges. If you’re hoping to land a job, you need to show potential employers that you possess the leadership skills to keep their business thriving in the coming years.

Consider joining industry organizations and volunteering for leadership roles within them, like secretary or treasurer. Volunteer your time as a mentor or tutor for local schools, organize a neighborhood committee, or assemble a team of colleagues to tackle a company initiative. When you show the initiative to lead, you position yourself as an ideal candidate in a changing workforce.

Focus on loyalty

In perhaps the most striking of findings, the survey revealed that 82% of Millennials define themselves as loyal. But only 1% of HR professionals agree. Are you part of that perceived 1% of your generation who embrace workplace loyalty? If you want to stand out from the competition, you should.

Millennials are often referred to as “job hoppers,” or workers who don’t stay with an employer for long before moving to the next one. While this lack of tenure is common in early years of employment, it’s important to not make a habit of it. Be mindful of the applications you send out and jobs you accept. If you don’t think you’ll be happy at a company, or think you’ll look for another job as soon as you start, it may not be the best fit.

While you can’t always turn down a job that isn’t a great fit due to financial reasons, you can help enact positive changes in the workplace. Offer suggestions, join committees, and try to get involved. And remember to focus on the benefits of the job, like health insurance, wellness initiatives, or paid time off.

When you focus on showcasing traits that contrast popular stereotypes, you can break the Millennial mold and prove your workplace value. Remember, you can’t just tell bosses and potential supervisors that your talents are a perfect match for the job. You have to show them, too.

How do you break the generational molds? Share your tips in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

Be A Teamwork Champion

teamworkIn a few days, the top two teams in professional football take the field to determine who will become Super Bowl champions. It’s the ultimate team endeavor. Each side consists of as many as 200 people: players, coaching staff, and support personnel, each with a specific duty. All play a part in determining whether the game will end in victory or defeat, from the star quarterback who leads the players on the field, to the equipment manager who decides what type of cleats to attach to the player’s shoes. The pressure and level of scrutiny is beyond intense, with millions of people judging every play, every action, and every decision made both on the field and on the sidelines.

You’ve probably been part of a team at some point in your work career. And while your team may not be as widely analyzed as a pro sports team, the outcome can be every bit as important. How you execute your role and how you interact with your team will affect your success and your future. It’s no small task to navigate the complexities of diverse personalities, each with unique skills and different levels of commitment to the goal. Whether or not you’re a sports fan, there are lessons from the gridiron on being a great team player that you can adapt to the workplace.

Know Your Role

It’s important to understand your role on the team, so you know what is expected of you. It’s also important to know the responsibilities of the other team members and how you will interact with them to meet your goal. Once you understand your role, commit to it. If you’re unsure of your role or responsibility, ask your team leader for clarification. As you undertake your responsibilities, don’t assume everyone knows what you know. One of the keys to team success is communication. So share your knowledge and expertise, but at the same time be receptive to the ideas and experience of others.

Be Ready to Step Up

You may be called upon to assume more responsibility if the team dynamic changes, for example, if someone leaves or gets promoted. You’ll set yourself up for failure if you just sit on the sidelines, not paying attention or staying up to date on the project. If you’re unprepared, and the need arises for someone to step in and assume greater responsibilities, you’ll either be passed over for a colleague who’s more prepared or you’ll step in the new role and be quickly betrayed by your lack of preparation. So stay informed and be ready. You don’t have to know everything, just enough to hit the ground running when your number is called.

Don’t Expect Equal Participation

Participation and effort in a team situation will never be equally balanced between all members.  Some will be called on to contribute more due to their experience and knowledge. If you feel someone isn’t pulling their weight, it may be due to a lack of experience or knowledge about the objective. They may lack confidence in their ability. Or a team member may not be engaged in the effort. Don’t waste energy worrying about who’s not doing their fair share of the work. Focus on your responsibilities first. If you believe you can take on additional duties, or help someone who seems to be struggling, approach your team leader and offer to help.

Respect is Earned

You may feel qualified to take on greater responsibility, but don’t get the opportunity or recognition you deserve. If you’re a new or untested employee, you have to demonstrate that you have both the ability and the disposition to lead. And that takes time. You’ll earn respect by being reliable, eager, positive, and encouraging. One of the most effective ways to gain respect is to give it. Show respect to people and their opinions.

Put the Team Ahead of Personality Issues

You don’t have to be best friends with everyone on the team. But you do have to work together amicably. In the event of a personality clash, do your best to separate the person from their perspective. Don’t be quick to dismiss an idea just because you don’t see eye to eye with someone. If you believe a teammate is sabotaging the effort, don’t call them out. Bring up the matter with your team leader in private. Be aware that how you present your concerns will say a lot to your leader about how you deal with conflict. Focus on the issue, not the personality.

What qualities come to mind when you imagine a great team member? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

Try these Teamwork Games at Your Holiday Party

gamers_June2013_webThe holidays are upon us, complete with office treats and parties. This time of year is also a great opportunity to build camaraderie with your co-workers, as well as build unity, strengthen morale, and decrease stress in the office.

Our friends at RefreshLeadership.com put together a list of four teamwork games to play at your next company holiday party, so take a look and tell us which one is your favorite in the comments below!

Office Celebrity
The game Celebrity is great for parties, but this play off of this classic is bound to break any barriers between coworkers and lead to knowing one another better. When workers know more about each other, they tend to work better together!

  1. Break your office into two teams.
  2. Write everyone’s name on separate pieces of paper and place them in a bowl.
  3. Round One: The first team has one member get up and pull a name from the bowl. He or she tries to get their team to guess which worker it is by giving characteristics of that person. After the team guesses it, another name is chosen and so on until a minute has passed. After one minute, the second team picks one member to try and get their team to guess as many names as possible during a minute. This goes on, switching teams and rotating players until all of the names have been guessed. Replace all names back into the bowl. Keep a tally of how many names each team correctly guessed.
  4. Round Two: Same as round one, but each moderator can only use ONE word to describe each name drawn.
  5. Round Three: Same as the previous rounds, but each moderator can’t use words to describe drawn names, but instead must act them out. The team with the most correct names tallied after three rounds wins!

Two Truths, One Lie
Another great way to see how well everyone knows each other is by playing Two Truths, One Lie. This is a fun game that will help team members find out more about one another.

  1. Have your team members bring chairs and sit in a circle.
  2. Tell each person to think of two truths about themselves and one lie.
  3. Have a starting person tell the three stories. It’s best to have the truths be something about them that no one else would know.
  4. After the person says the two truths and lie to the group, have the rest of the team discuss and try and come to a consensus on which story is the lie.
  5. Have the person reveal which is the lie, and then have the next person go.

Trivia
Trivia is one of the most simple to set up and most enjoyable. From history to current events to business questions, engaging in a simple game of trivia will sharpen minds and encourage teamwork and office competition.

  1. Split your employees into teams of three to six people.
  2. Choose three rounds of topics (i.e., World History, Art and Music, Movies, etc.).
  3. Ask five questions involving the first topic. After each question, have a member of each team silently write down an answer on a piece of paper with their team name and turn it in to the trivia moderator.
  4. After each round, give the answers to questions so the teams can keep a tally of how they’re doing.
  5. After three rounds, the team with the most right answers wins. (You may need to have a “lightning round” for a tie breaker.)

Office Scavenger Hunt
One great way to loosen up a stiff work day is to have an office-wide scavenger hunt! Although you could just have a simple search-and-find checklist, this is a great opportunity to engage workers by simple problem solving.

  1. Create an in-depth series of clues with each clue leading to a different one. (This works best in riddles, like “The best way to cure a case of Monday morning tiredness to get you ready for the day.” And then hide the next clue by your office coffee maker.)
  2. Break your office into three to five teams, giving each one the first clue.
  3. Set a time frame for the office to complete the scavenger hunt.
  4. As each team finds the next clue by figuring out where the previous clue was directing them, encourage teams to involve each person during the problem solving process.

This is a competition after all, so offer a prize for the first team that finishes the hunt.

What teamwork games do you play at your holiday parties? Let us know in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

Better Together: Teamwork Games

better_together_teamwork_games_webWe all know that teamwork is vital to the success of a business, but building teamwork takes effort.

According to a recent article by Six Sigma, an online business institute, “Business teamwork is important because it enables companies to achieve their goals quickly and efficiently. Companies set goals and these goals cannot be achieved by one person. Members of a business need to work as a team. Put simply, teamwork is the collective performance of different individuals skilled at different activities in order to fulfill a group goal or objective.”

To help you better your teamwork skills and have a little fun, we’ve put together a list of game ideas that will inspire and encourage employees. Try these at your next team building exercise.

The Game of Questions
This is a great game for companies trying to address a problem. As few as 10 people are split into two groups. One team stands in a circle facing out while the other team creates a larger circle around them facing in.

The inner circle asks a question of the person opposite them in the other team. The employee has 30 seconds to answer. After, the person in the outer circle asks the same question. The inner circle then moves clockwise one space while the outer circle moves counter clockwise.

Continue the questions until everyone has answered. Questions could include:

  • “What is your greatest strength?”
  • “What kind of management style works best for you?”
  • “What is your definition of success?”

Tower of Cards
In this game, employees gather in groups of two to five members. Each group receives a pack of cards and a pair of scissors. The teams have to build the best and tallest tower using only the cards and scissors. This game is designed to help with team bonding and creativity.

Dodge the Traps
Try this teambuilding game to increase trust and communication with employees on your team. In a large area, place “traps” around haphazardly. Items for your traps may include balls, bottles, or cones.

In teams of two, blindfold one team member from each team. The other member must speak to the blindfolded employee to try to lead them around the traps in his or her path.

Building Blocks
Create a fictional problem like a brain teaser, design challenge, or riddle. Have team members write their solution or idea on a large sheet of paper. Once one person puts down an idea, pass the paper to the person on the left and have them use the idea to build another solution. As the paper continues around, see what the results are. This game allows people to understand and appreciate the value of everyone’s ideas.

Team building games work and are an excellent way to get employees to connect and work more effectively with each other. What are some of your favorite team building games? Let us know in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.