Teamwork in an Executive Setting

Teamwork is often used in conjunction with sports organizations, sales associates, boat-rowing, and academic decathalons, but how often is the word associated with executive-level professionals? We think of corporate offices as well-oiled machines that run off the value of a varliety of individuals, and not as the product of teamwork. This is a misconception, however, because if the heads of departments don’t know how to communicate with each other and work together, then the final product tends to be chaos.

CEOs and others are often more productive when they have highly-effective teams at their disposal. At the point where team members all work towards the same common goals, interpersonal conflict is resolvable, and roles are defined, many teams can still struggle. Even with everyone pointed in the same direction, there can be problems:

** Some people refuse to share information.
** Many won’t debate the issues.
** Others perceive a ‘kill the messenger’ pattern or have a fear of reprisal.
** Some may exhibit passive-aggressive or even aggressive behavior.
** Associates commonly will agree in a meeting to take action, but fail to act on that decision in practice.
** Sometimes too many people or the wrong people in the room can cause a problem.

To overcome most of these problems, two things have to happen:

** Team members have to trust in their associates and in the process, and
** Team members have to be willing to contribute to team debates (i.e., they have to be willing to engage in constructive conflict on the work itself).

In order to facilitate a healthy working environment, team leaders must sit down with their associates and go over the ground rules. Leave room open for discussion, but make it clear that respect and advocacy must take precedence before any work can be accomplished. This takes a certain level of ingenuity on the part of the team leader, but in order for things to run smoothly, everyone has to be on the same page.

There are some team-building exercises that might be effective, but make sure that none of them are too juvenile and that they don’t make associates uncomfortable.

There are several books about team building available from Amazon.com, including Alanna Jones’s Team-Building Activities for Every Group and The Team Building Tool Kit by Deborah Harrington-MacKin, both of which are excellent resources for the struggling team leader.

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