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Small Business: Creating a cohesive team

September 11, 2011 4:58 PM By JAMIE HERZLICH jherzlich@aol.com

 
Creating a cohesive team environment in the workplace is critical to any organization.
Factions within a team setting can lead to a decline in employee morale, as well as overall work productivity.
 
Making sure your own team is operating effectively takes work and cannot be left to chance. Rather, it requires some careful planning and setting some clear objectives, experts say.
 
"Team building is a process," explains Ginny Hronek, president of Dynamix Training and Consulting Llc, a business management, leadership and sales training/coaching firm in Rochester, N.Y. "It doesn't just happen when you put a group of people together."
 
You need to lay the foundation to ensure the team is successful, Hronek says.
 
For starters, the team needs to understand what their purpose is, their function in relation to the business goals and the actual team goal, she says.
 
Don't just assume this is clear to everyone, says Hronek, who offers more team-building tips at her website. Click here to link to businessknowhow.com/manage/12winteam.htm.
 
"I'll ask everyone on a team to jot down what they think the goal of the team is and it's amazing the variety of responses I get," she notes.
 
Clear roles: Aside from identifying the team's goals or mission, each individual must have clear roles and expectations, says Barbara DeMatteo, director of human resources consulting at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates Inc. in Syosset.
 
"They have to be understandable," she says.
 
There also has to be a commitment to trust and open communication among team members, she says. There can be no hidden agendas or deals under the table, cautions DeMatteo.
 
This requires a manager or team leader that can ensure this kind of behavior is not occurring, she says. In fact, the role of the team leader is critical in maintaining good relations and the right conditions so the team can work effectively, she says.
This doesn't mean there may not be conflict in the team, but it's the job of the team leader to help resolve that conflict.
 
To help minimize conflict, each team should develop some sort of agreed-upon shared values on how they will interact, suggests Michael Crom, executive vice president of Dale Carnegie Training in Hauppauge. For example, "we will treat each other with dignity, we will debate things heartily, but never get personal," he says.
He would also create a vision statement for the team that's clear, specific and inspires people. For example, a deli might say its team goal is to become the number one customer service deli in Huntington, says Crom.
You might even put the vision on a white board with goals and as people reach the goals you mark it on the board, he explains, adding it could be like the thermometer charts you see at fundraisers.
 
Hold weekly meetings to discuss the team's progress, individual contributions and any obstacles that should be addressed, he suggests.
 
"Aim toward two-way interaction, exchange of ideas and developing new insights in regular communication," advises Hronek.
 
Team building: Do some team-building activities and find ways to say thank you to the team (i.e. providing breakfast/lunch, etc.), she says.
 
Hilary Topper of HJMT Communications, a public relations and social media firm in Melville, does that with various activities she coordinates for the team outside the office. She's taken employees rock climbing, on a helicopter ride over Manhattan and even kayaking.
 
"We go through a strategic planning day and this usually is followed by that," says Topper, referring to the group activities.
 
It's gotten a favorable response, Topper says."It kind of let's everybody's guard down and everybody opens up and becomes a closer cohesive team that way," she says.
 

Four stages of team building

Forming: When the team initially comes together
Storming: The inevitable conflict that can occur in any team (personality differences, etc.)
Norming: When differences have been resolved and the team is working cohesively
Performing: Stage at which the team is highly productive, meeting goals, etc
 

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