TO be able to get a team of employees communicating, gelling and working together as a coherent and cogent force is the utopian ideal for any employer. Therefore, each year, huge amounts of money are spent on team-building training programmes. But much to the disappointment of most employers, the effects of such programmes are, at best, fleeting.
Simply focusing on trying to get your team to connect by running various team-building exercises serves a very limited purpose. The majority of employees that I know have misgivings about attending their company’s team-building programmes.
You know that you might suffer some hardship, because the team-building “experts” think suffering together will bring you closer. And you also know that you are going to have to join in, even when you do not believe in an activity, because you cannot be seen to be a spoilsport.
You may also worry that your boss is keeping a keen eye on you.
Often, none of this resonates with you, and consequently you eschew the whole idea of attending such programmes.
In a nutshell, the purpose of teamwork is to help increase productivity and to provide a support system for each member of any given team.
Accepting this idea is not that difficult. But in order to be successful at implementing it, your organisation needs to create a conducive environment.
And this, too, is not that challenging, once it is understood that teams need to be well organised in order to be effective.
As members of a team, everyone has to agree that each person is responsible for specific functions, and you need to perform your allotted duties well to progress.
Teams are formed to achieve organisational goals by combining human resources. Each person will have something to bring to the table that contributes to the company, as a whole.
But all of this will only work if you are driven by purpose.
If your purpose is clear, you will have absolutely no problem working with others, even if it causes some personal discomfort. This is because you connect with the notion that even if you dislike a co-worker or your boss, you will have to set this emotion aside to achieve your collective goals.
As you get connected to purpose, your attitude will mirror this. And, with a purpose-driven attitude, you will be able to build meaningful relationships with others.
Mutual respect, and being mindful, helps you to build concrete relationships with others. As you cement these relationships, the bond of trust increases.
Once you have done this, teamwork comes naturally. It does not need to be forced or coerced. You do not need team-building activities or motivation to appreciate that you need to work together.
Teamwork becomes an ensuing by-product of your relationships with your co-workers because you have a great attitude that is founded on purpose.
Recently, I have seen this principle in action to astonishing effect.
My wife and I are the majority shareholders of a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. In my capacity as the managing director of this business, I have worked fervently on transforming this, a former hole in the wall, into a thriving neighbourhood hangout for the Taman Tun Dr Ismail locale.
As part of my efforts of making it better, I managed to invite, with the help of my Austrian wife, a chef from her home country to come to Malaysia and be a guest for about a week. My purpose was to introduce Austrian cuisine to Kuala Lumpur and, at the same time, get my kitchen team to be inspired by
working alongside an accomplished chef.
Chef Markus Fasser, owner and executive chef of a celebrated restaurant in the stunning Austrian Alps, arrived at our bistro with his reputation preceding him.
With over 25 years of experience in some phenomenal kitchens in Europe and the United States, as well as being a chef for Formula One marquee pavilions, I was nervous that my kitchen team could not cope with this high-flyer.
But watching him work his magic has been an absolute inspiration for me. His ability to galvanise a team of Malaysian cooks, and transform our kitchen to produce top-notch and complex Austrian cuisine, was just remarkable.
I realised that Chef Fasser recognised that his success in an unknown kitchen, with an unfamiliar crew, would rest on his ability to inspire and engage them.
He inspired them through his knowledge and techniques. But even more impressive was his ability to engage my team.
While he provided leadership, his forte was his capacity to create a great team dynamic in the kitchen. The staff knew what they had to do, why they had to it, and what the outcome would be.
He was quickly able to gauge each team member’s skill set and deploy them effectively.
This outstanding chef realised that the purpose of creating teams is to provide a structure that will increase the ability of everyone to participate in planning, problem solving and decision making. And he understood from the onset that to better serve our customers, he needed to ensure complete participation from my entire team.
Teamwork based on purpose helps you understand decisions better. It also means more support for the implementation of plans, as well as the increased overall contribution by everyone. This, in turn, leads to more ownership of the complete process.
Results are only achieved when teamwork is based on understanding.
Do you know why you need to work with your co-workers?
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”