Teamwork is not just a noun. More than almost any other individual factor, a company’s teamwork will determine its success. That’s the reason many leaders focus on teams and how productively they work. Often, this means they look for ways to ‘motivate’ a team. So, they’ll introduce incentive programs and perks or organize company barbecues or sporting events hoping to improve morale and team dynamics. While we enjoy bonuses or a good company outing as much as anyone, we find these approaches to team building are seldom the most effective ways to nurture teamwork and increase its effectiveness.
Instead, we find the most effective teams thrive in companies that show strong – and positive – business culture traits. And a strong, positive company culture starts at the top. Effective sales leaders develop, polish and apply fundamental skills that help them regularly assess their culture, and then consistently improve and strengthen it. What are those skills?
One is an ability to share and impart a vision for the team and company. Another is the skill to identify and consistently communicate a company’s core values. High-performance teams almost always have leaders who know how to create and maintain a competitive advantage. And the very best teams have leaders who know how to build an organizational structure that supports their vision, the company’s values and a competitive advantage.
We’ve also noticed that great teams have great listening skills. Leaders who listen intently better understand the needs of their subordinates, customers and support functions. With that understanding comes an ability to tailor strategies and tweak processes that appropriately respond to identified stakeholder needs. Great sales leaders know that listening skills are not an exclusive domain of management. They demonstrate effective listening in every interaction and impart their passion for listening to team members, but also expect active listening skills eventually to become a strength of every player on their team.
Listening skills contribute directly to team harmony — one of the prime characteristics of any successful team. In fact, some dictionaries actually list the word harmony as a synonym for the word teamwork! Harmony assures members collaborate towards the same goals — at the same time – using their efforts productively and energy efficiently. A lack of harmony produces precisely the opposite results should participants squabble over processes, outcomes, and shortcomings. But leaders seldom achieve harmony by accident!
Instead, great managers have respect for the challenges and priorities of others. Subordinates, peers, and superiors all have demands on their time and feel pressure to achieve results. We find the best leaders not only recognize this reality, but they also leverage it. By listening, leaders gain insight into those challenges and frame every potential solution in the context of mutual benefit to achieve mutual goals. We also see that leaders who consistently show such respect demonstrate its benefits to the larger team. Not only will subordinates develop and hone the skills to emulate their leader, peers and superiors usually jump on the same positive bandwagon. Everyone works to strengthen and nurture desired behaviors throughout the company.
That’s why incentives and other initiatives to ‘motivate’ teams seldom generate the level of teamwork and dynamics desired. Teams work best when there is regular, respectful two-way communication — where participants listen to understand. Managers listen to understand the needs of their subordinates. Subordinates listen to understand the needs of superiors. And peers listen to each other to deeply understand each other’s needs. This style — to make listening the priority — gives each party in the communication a solid foundation to consider better possible solutions. That’s why we say teamwork is not just a noun. It really is the sound basis upon which your team can grow.
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