By Mike Challman, Vice President, North American Operations, ChemLogix, LLC
When I was a younger man, I developed and, then, refined over the years a simple list of tenets to guide my personal and professional life. As I’ve grown as a leader, I’ve seen clearly how these principles yield a very high level of performance when embraced by a work team. Applying these values, which include both things to do and things to avoid, will inevitably lead to success for both the team and its individual members.
BE COOPERATIVE – Recognize the importance of working together. Don’t worry about who gets the credit.
A high-performing team links individual effort to group results. Individuals can still have specific goals and should certainly be acknowledged for their contributions. It is essential to recognize and reward behavior that contributes to overall team success. Do it consistently and members will become confident that they will be properly recognized for supporting team goals. There is room enough for everyone to succeed, if they work together.
BE CREATIVE – Find new and better ways to do things. Trust that your ideas are worthwhile.
“It’s the way we’ve always done it” is a toxic attitude to a vibrant team environment. If a team won’t adapt and improve, first-rate solutions can quickly become cut-rate. And some of the best ideas can come from newer team members. A fresh set of eyes may recognize an opportunity that is camouflaged to veterans. The creative spirit thrives when team members think aloud, offer suggestions, ask questions and challenge the status quo.
BE COMPASSIONATE – Encourage one another. Help others.
Many of us spend more waking hours during the week with our work team than our families. We need to treat team members with the level of respect and support that we want for ourselves or the people for which we care. That includes taking time to recognize a teammate who does something good. A sincere ‘thank you’ from a colleague might mean more than a comment from a leader. People want to be appreciated. A sincere word of encouragement costs you nothing.
BE COURAGEOUS – Take a strong stand in support of your values and ideas. Take a risk.
It can be scary to advocate for something that challenges prevailing sentiment or the team leader’s opinion. It’s scarier still if you stand alone. But if you’ve done your homework and strongly believe that your proposal is right for the team, take a deep breath and push ahead. The most capable teams foster an environment that encourages open interactions and objective discussion. If we’re not risking, then we’re not moving forward.
AVOID COMPLAINING – Focus on what you can do to make things better. Control your own destiny.
It’s natural to need to vent sometimes. But there is a fine line between blowing off steam and becoming a victim. When team members are encouraged to focus more on resolution and less on the problem, the level of empowerment rises dramatically. Recognizing a problem is usually relatively easy; expressing unhappiness about it is even easier. Moving past that emotion and seeking answers is where real strength lies, and that is where a strong team will focus its collective power.
AVOID COMPLACENCY – ‘Good enough’ is almost never good enough. Raise the bar.
An old colleague used to say, “Perfect is the Enemy of Good”. More often it seems that “good enough” can become the enemy of “great”. A high-performing team will have progressive goals. When a set of clear, specific objectives are achieved, newer and higher targets must be set. The achievement of goals should still be celebrated. Every win, both big and small, is important. The team can celebrate that success before getting down to the business of reaching the next level.
AVOID CRITICIZING – Believe that everyone is trying to do their best. Help them to do better.
Constructive criticism and critical analysis are good things. The negative, judgmental variety is destructive to the culture of a team. We work with people from all sorts of backgrounds and many different life experiences. One constant is true of virtually everyone; we want to do our best and we want to be successful. Before you declare a struggling teammate to be a lost cause, ask yourself – would I want help if that was me? If so, be that support.
AVOID CAPITULATING – Persevere in the face of challenges. “Never, never, never give up.” – Churchill
High-performing teams demonstrate endurance, commitment and tenacity. Sometimes it is easy and fun; other times, grim and demanding. It is important to keep the long view, to expect some bumps in the road, to communicate openly and to focus on improvement. The best teams foster an environment where members trust, challenge, encourage and support one another. A high-performing, results-oriented team will foster the individual achievement of each of its members. It won’t always be easy, but the rewards are worth it, guaranteed.