March 21, 2016

Introduction

In a world that values personal privacy and individuality, creating organizations that are successful and productive are incompatible with the current zeitgeist of being solo. Perhaps this is the quintessential difference between businesses that soar and those that fail. Organizations that have been profitable and enduring have come to be by individual leaders who infused their spirit into their firms so as to create a espirit de corps, an all-for-one, one-for-all ethos. “Developing teamwork is such an important leadership role that team building is said to differentiate successful from unsuccessful leaders” (DuBrin, 2013, p. 271). It is striking to observe organizations that are impactful and efficient while juxtaposing these to a pneumos in the Western world that extols being self-centered, thrives on selfies and lives to tout the self. The extremes couldn’t be more opposing and the end results more obvious.

Research: Team-based Organizations

DuBrin states that there are actions that leaders can adopt to foster teamwork. Some of these include:

  1. defining the team’s mission
  2. establishing a climate of trust
  3. developing a norm of teamwork including emotional intelligence
  4. emphasizing pride in being outstanding
  5. serving as a model of teamwork including power sharing

(Dubrin, 2013, p. 279).

Thus we see that a group leader can exert significant influence by role-modeling the behavior that they wish to see in their team. The saying “the fruit does not far fall from the tree” seems to have application in team organizations. Some might equate this vision with a “leading from behind” paradigm where the leader is not one who craves attention, seeks to be in front getting all of the limelight, but opts instead to cajole, animate and foster others to walk ahead. It is an other-directed paradigm. “Teamwork is work done with an understanding and commitment to group goals on the part of all team members” (DuBrin, p. 271). The group’s goals are more important than the goals of self.

To achieve this level of teamwork requires that individuals within the team possess unique skills, also known as “soft skills”, that they, in turn, can offer or share to others within the organization. Soft skills “refer to personal competencies that affect the way we interact with people and include communication, listening and negotiation skills, as well as team work, leadership and planning, reflection and critical thinking, ethics and commitment” (García, López Molina, Casas & Morales, 2016, p. 2). Without these soft skills, an organization will be hard-pressed to survive given that abilities involving communication, listening and negotiating are missing. Conversely, the organizational leader must be able to demonstrate leadership traits that will propel their organization. The leader is paramount in setting the tone for the team which, in turns, follows as a group organization. “Leaders influence followers by spending significant amounts of time communicating with them, particularly through spontaneous, informal communication, and by providing development opportunities” (Kramer & Crespy, 2011, p. 1025). So important is the leader to an organization, that their philosophy must be welcoming in order to attract others. It can be said that “for a collaborative process to occur, the director must begin with a collaborative leadership philosophy” (Kramer & Crespy, 2011, p. 1027). A collaborative philosophy can be restated as being an inclusive one, welcoming and affirming.

Motivation Through Recognition

It is well accepted that positive reinforcement results in desired outcomes. Feeding a dog treats steers the behaviors of the animal. Behavioral Psychologists like B.F. Skinner demonstrated through extensive research that negative reinforcement can help extinguish undesired behaviors, just like positive reinforcement can promote desired outcomes. Not surprisingly this modality motivates individuals. “Motivating others by giving them recognition and praise can be considered a direct application of positive reinforcement (DuBrin, 2013, p. 315). Companies have offered “rewards and recognition programs” for years and they are well received by employees. Sales professionals in particular receive plaques and certificates for meeting targets that involve not only market share and sales, but assisting accounts with their own personal territories. Employees often compete to receive such recognition by their employers even if they involve little financial value.

Managers could implement such a practice through their employer (DuBrin, p. 316). By going through the employer channels, they follow a consistency in their dispensing recognition, as well as following a well documented path. “Several studies conducted over a fifty-five year time span have indicated that employees welcome praise for a job well done as much as they welcome a regular paycheck” (p. 316).  Therefore, using recognition to motivate employees has been proven to result in positive business outcomes.

Recommendations: Leading to Achieve Long-term Business Outcomes

Authors Webber and Webber argue that leading effectively so as to achieve successful, long-term business outcomes, requires dedicated planning. Success is rarely accomplished on the fly, and business is no exception. “Effective leaders actively engage in a thoughtful process during the building phase to set the stage for the long-term success of the team” (Webber & Webber, 2013, p. 452). In as such, they have established 5 phases that lead to long-term success in the business setting. The 5 phases are:

  1. Building
  2. Launching
  3. Collaborating
  4. Performing
  5. Evaluating

(Webber & Webber, p. 455).

The Building Phase has its goals centered around “planning and deliverables” which are more time intensive for the leaders. Thoughtful reflection is necessary for Phase 1. The Launching Phase puts the onus on the leaders to create “excitement and trust” within the team members. These facets are contingent on the leader possessing inherit abilities already referenced at the beginning of this paper. With the building of “excitement and trust”, Collaboration or Phase 3 can be realized: “connection and communication” (Webber & Webber, p. 455). From this point forward, analyzing progression and motivation give way to analysis and ways to improve the process. It should be obvious that an outcome that results in measurable, observable long-term business success are reachable if leaders put forth the effort. Their effort is a reflection on their own faith in their team! If they believe their team members have the proper skills to bring the organization to new heights, it revolves around them to put forth a schema that others can follow. People will follow when motivated by the proper leader. Trust is key.

Conclusion

There are ample examples of successful leaders who have created business teams that have led, and still lead, to productive, profitable and admirable business results. Tim Cook became CEO of Apple Computer after the death of Steve Jobs, and his leadership style has been cited by experts as a person who “works smoothly with managers from different disciplines” (DuBrin, 2013, p. 217). These types of successful leaders do not happen by accident. Individuals such as Tim Cook possess many of the skill sets necessary to lead an organization and draw people together into one coalition. Communication skills contribute greatly to foster a collegial atmosphere amongst team members, as do listening skills, negotiation and leading through example. People are also driven to accomplish tasks if there is a positive reward or recognition for their hard work. These can play into team building in business if the leaders truly value their firm’s mission statement. Success in business is not a matter of luck or chance. Rather, achieving long-term business outcomes are done when leaders are meticulous about planning and strategizing which individuals can belong to their teams, and then shows them by role modeling leadership. If a college drop-out like Steve Jobs could do it, then it is a matter of anyone wishing to accomplish the same achievements.

 

References

DuBrin, A. J. (2010). Developing teamwork. In Leadership: Research findings, practice, and skills (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

García, M., López, G., Molina, C., Casas, B., & Morales, E. (2016). Development and evaluation   of the team work skill in university contexts. Are virtual environments effective? International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 13(1), 1-11. doi:10.1186/s41239-016-0014-1

Kramer, M. W., & Crespy, D. A. (2011). Communicating collaborative leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(5), 1024-1037. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.07.021

Webber, S, & Webber, D. S. (2015). Launching and leading intense teams. Business Horizons,  58(4), 449-457.