Recently at a Monday Morning Meeting (we get everybody together on Monday mornings to share announcements, encouragement, updates, and quirky videos) I gave the team a little pep talk about teamwork. With end-of-year goals in sight, it felt like the right time to remind everybody of a GS core value.
For some reason, lost in the vast GS lore, we use an illustration of a unicorn to represent our company’s core values: Teamwork, along with Individualism, Integrity, and Balance. Teamwork is represented by the, let’s say, “hindquarters” of the unicorn (others might choose a different word). I like to think it’s because good teamwork provides a strong foundation to move the other values forward. Or something like that.
Pulling a few pearls of wisdom from our “GS Culture Book,” among other sources (credit for the first two items goes to accountability consultant Mike Scott), here are three teamwork ideas I shared with the team. I hope you’ll find them as useful as we do.
The No Surprises Protocol
1. The moment you know that a commitment will be missed, your obligation is to TALK (live) to the person to whom the commitment was made.
Does sending an email or an IM count as “talking”? Ideally, no. Better to pick up the phone, or (better still) walk over to someone’s desk and literally talk to the person.
2. Provide at least three viable solutions to meet the original goal – that require the person’s approval.
This gives the person you’ve let down the opportunity to decide what happens next. Just make sure you are the one presenting good options.
3. If approval isn’t required, then just take the appropriate action immediately.
Sometimes, the remedy to the situation is obvious. In this case, make it happen as soon as possible.
Why Ask “Why”?
Conversely, when you’re sitting on the other side of the desk, don’t ask why something did or didn’t happen the way it was supposed to. There’ll be time for getting to the bottom of things later. Right now, the priority is to keep things moving and limit potential damage. So instead of asking why, ask:
- What’s your next step to get that done?
- When are you going to do that?
- Can I count on you for that?
That last step may seem obvious or unnecessary, but it’s important. Verbalizing your expectation that the problem will get solved helps the other person be accountable. It lets the person know that it’s important, and you’re not going to tolerate another delay or slip-up. It’s also a form of encouragement. People perform best when it’s clear that others are counting on them.
Assume the Best Intentions
Finally, one way to blow up a lot a good teamwork is to make what’s sometimes called a “Fundamental Attribution Error.” Simply put, this happens when you attribute people’s actions to their competence or character as opposed to underlying situational factors. For instance, let’s say you’re sitting at a red light. But just as the light turns green and you step on the gas, a driver speeds across the intersection against the light.
The natural reaction is to yell, “Learn to drive, you idiot!” We seldom stop and think that maybe the other driver is in an emergency situation and needs to get to the hospital quickly.
On the road, sometimes the other driver is a jerk. But in the work environment, it’s best to assume we all have good intentions. Because we almost always do. It’s part of what being a good team member is all about.
It Takes a Village, People
Ours is an industry that’s characterized by rapid change. With that change come new clients, new challenges, new projects, and new team members. To keep up, it’s important to revisit the fundamentals, the core values, from time to time. To strengthen our teamwork hindquarters and keep everyone pulling together with power.