Right from the start, condition new team members to believe that they are joining an elite group – that your team is made up of winners, and that they would not be there if they were not winners too. To help the new hire feel a part of the team, you might assign an experienced employee who is a strong team player to serve as the new hire’s mentor during the newcomer’s first few weeks on the job. This provides the new hire with a role model not only in terms of the work but also in terms of his or her place in the group. Thereafter, build esprit de corps by stressing the accomplishments of the team and how the new worker’s accomplishments are helping the group to do its job.
Very shortly after a new team member starts work, you might want to call him or her into your office to ask him or her, “What have you observed about how our team operates?” “What do you like about our system?” “What, specifically, you do not like, and how do you suggest we change it?” “Are you getting an idea of what your own strengths or weaknesses are in relation to the team?”
“How should the team make the best use of your strengths, and how can we help to improve your weaknesses?” Make the questions open-ended, and phrase them in a way that relates to the team. Then listen, listen, listen. New members can often see things more clearly than insiders, since they are still viewing things at a distance. Their insights may surprise you. If they are wrong, they are wrong, and you can discount the suggestions – but always let them know that you were glad to hear them. This will make the newcomers feel that they are contributing – that they have as much of a voice as anyone else on the team.
If I build a strong team, am I abdicating power or control?
When you build a sense of teamwork, you are not abdicating power or control. While teamwork works best in a climate of participation or, better yet, shared leadership (think “empowerment”), it is not mandatory. This is a decision that you make as team leader, and this is a role that you can retain or share, as you wish. The key is making sure that employees understand the ground rules by which teamwork is practiced.
Some management thinkers might disagree with the above. They would argue that the more control a person has in an organization; the more power that person will have to relinquish to run an effective team. For instance, as a manager, relinquishing control, they would argue, means deliberately holding back on your point of view and allowing your team’s members to spend time searching for the right answer, rather than providing it for them. This is true only if you want that kind of relationship with your team.
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