Does Your Team Work?
By working together toward a common vision, your in-plant team can achieve higher levels of success.September 2014 By Wes Friesen
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."—Helen Keller
For us fans of team sports, isn't it exciting to see our favorite teams blend their individual talents and abilities and achieve success as a unified team? The good news is that our teams in the business world can also achieve success. One key to making that happen is teamwork.
What is teamwork? I like Andrew Carnegie's definition: "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision—the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."
How can we develop stronger teamwork? Let me share 10 rules for high-performance teamwork, adapted from John J. Murphy's book Pulling Together:
1. Put the Team First. In the middle of every high-performance team is a common purpose—a sense of vision and mission that unites and inspires each individual team member. Make sure you solicit participation from the team when developing the common purpose, remembering the principle that "change imposed is change opposed" and Ken Blanchard's quote: "None of us is as smart as all of us."
Alexander Graham Bell summarizes well when he says, "All winning teams are goal oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives. They go about their business with blinders on; nothing will distract them from achieving their aims.
2. Communicate Openly and Candidly. High-performing teams are empowered teams, and information is a great source of power. Sharing the team's key performance metrics, indicators and ongoing status is crucial. Ask yourself: "What do team members need to know on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to manage performance?" Tools such as balanced scorecards, dashboards, work review meetings and one-on-one coaching sessions can be helpful.
3. Be Part of the Solution, Not the Problem. There is no substitute for personal ownership, responsibility and self control. These are traits that we can model—and intentionally encourage in our team members. Also, recognize that problems will arise—and they may be blessings in disguise if we learn and grow from them. As philosopher René Descartes notes: "Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems.
Wes Friesen is the manager of Billing, Credit and Special Attention Operations for Portland General Electric. He manages CIS billing, specialized billing, electronic bills and payments, credit and collections and OPUC and special attention operations. Wes and the PGE print and mail team have earned many national awards, such as the IPMA Management Award, four NAPL Gold Awards and numerous PCC awards. Wes received the Franklin Award in 2010 for his contributions to the mail industry. For the past 27 years Wes has been a university instructor and a speaker at conferences. He has written numerous articles for trade journals. Wes earned a B.S. in Business Administration from George Fox University and an MBA from the University of Portland. He can be contacted at: