Collectivism v Individualism in work teams Part II

Monday I identified the following four issues with our current approach to team building and productivity in the workplace.

  • Our systems of evaluation and compensation are all skewed toward individual performance rather than team performance.
  • Our management structures tend to leave one person in charge of hiring for a given team
  • Our focus on goals is focused either too high (ROI, EPS) or two low (quarterly quotas)
  • Our process for on-boarding new team members lacks the depth of training and acculturation that encourages a sense of mutual identity and objectives

Let’s start with item number 1.  Should evaluation and compensation be based on individual performance?  If a team has a goal or set of metrics for performance such as sales targets, completed projects, service scores, cases completed, etc.; can we evaluate the team and not the individuals?  If the team meets it goals, should everyone be graded as equally contributory?  What are the motivational implications of removing individual appraisals from the process?  Is there something uniquely american about the emphasis we place on individual performance.  Can an individual be deemed a success at their job if the team of which they are a part falls short of its goals.  Will team based rating draw performance down to the lowest common denominator or will the team pull all of its members up to a standard through mentoring, coaching and peer pressure?

In my previous post, I gave the example of sports teams.  These are generally composed of a combination of high paid stars and role players making a league average salary.  Spectacular performers are compensated based on the impact they have.  They are game changers, or can be.  A manager builds around that core of talented individuals, but there are myriad examples of teams stocked with superstars, that can’t reach the goal of a championship.  It is almost always some intangible that make the difference between a group and a team.  What can we do to make our work groups cohere into high functioning teams?  How do we promote the intangible? Does the attainment of a short-term goal provide a better foundation for teamwork?  Do we set attainable short and mid range goals that are subsets of the overall missions of our teams?

My experience is that a good manager can help a team coalesce around clear short-term goals and let the team build its own identity by fostering social and professional interaction.  Let the members coach themselves and each other.  Get the stronger contributors and more tenured staff adopt and nurture new employees.  Create compensation criteria that ensure that team goals are a component such that we each win when we all win.  Establish peer reviews rather than top down evaluations and make sure that performance appraisal and feedback take place all year round, not just at year-end.  Get out of the office with the team as often as practical.  Team building activities can range from bowling night to training activities.  Get team members involved in setting goals and developing the strategic plans.  The deeper the matrix of connection, the better the team chemistry.  The more each member participates in defining the team’s objectives, processes and personality, the more personal ownership they feel and therefore the greater pride ownership and commitment to excellence each brings to the whole enterprise.

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Posted in Leadership, personal productivity

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