Thursday, January 15, 2009

Team members should be friends?

Team Members should be friends?

Aristotle suggested that friendship, like successful team membership, has three components:

- They must enjoy one another’s company.
- They must be useful to one another.
- They must share a common commitment to the good.

Team Members Must Enjoy One Another’s Company

What does it mean to enjoy another team member’s company? What is it that just makes the other members of a work team not just tolerable but enjoyable?

A mistake many new (or even existing) team members make is to place their emphasis on being liked by the other team members. They work very hard at appearing likeable, so others will value them as a member of the team. And, at first glance, this seems to work. Gestures of friendship, loyalty and often even rewards go to the team members who have the greatest “apparent” value, like a pair of shoes or a new car.

But, sadly, this effect is only temporary. Once the team members and organization fail to “catch the eye” of the purchaser (the powers that be), they “trade up.” This results in a team that is more like a marketplace, and can lead to a team culture of deceit and high turnover. Team members operating this way fail to see the other members as people of equal value; they see them as objects or goods to be used for their personal advancement.

For an effective team to form, the opposite must happen. Team members must look for the valuable skills and work traits in the other team members, and work on building connections across skill talent or trait lines, such as transparency, dependability, accountability and trust.

Aristotle taught that by enjoying other team members’ company and concentrating on who they are, we learn what it is that makes a person a trusted member of the group, and ultimately, a friend. And that is when effective teamwork starts to take off.

Team Members Must be Useful to One Another

A team, especially at work, is a means to develop a network and system of shared usefulness.

Team members who have high job satisfaction within the team’s tasks, and who stay with a team for years typically develop a deep understanding of the reciprocal value of cooperation with other team members. Once team members experience this interdependent value, cooperation usually increases.

Why? They begin to see and experience the benefits that accrue from team membership. It moves from being viewed as an obligation to becoming a source of personal value.

Developing a culture of goals and metrics that are team-oriented, where team members can act in self-directed ways that multiply the effectiveness of the entire organization, can increase team cohesion and perceived usefulness among team members. Like a symphony orchestra, each team member is treated as a specialist and knows just when he or she is most useful, in resonance with the whole team or even the entire organization.

Team Members Have a Common Commitment to the Good

Creating goals, metrics and benchmarks for team success creates a culture in which the team members strive to make their team and organization successful, while remaining accountable for their own actions. The result is a commitment to the common good.

A team that is lacking a commitment to the common good is one that will fail. This is the responsibility of all team members, not just management. Once team members make the choice to be “useful to one another,” as well as “enjoy the other team members’ company,” a unified set of goals can emerge. These unified goals translate into increased productivity, lower turnover, and the development of a team that is high-functioning and effective.

So do they need to like-like each other?

Do team members need to be friends with one another as opposed to merely tolerating other team members? Yes.

This is done with a paradigm shift, “making myself an effective team member, one who is dedicated to being a team member as opposed to making myself desirable for membership within the team.”

-Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning-Team Building, an experiential based training and development consulting organization, as well as a blogger for TeamBuilding NY. Mike specializes in team development and leadership development consulting and training, creating team-building programs that retain talented staff members, increase production and effectiveness of your team. He lives in Buffalo, NY, and travels to you to serve your team-building and leadership training needs, wherever and whenever fits your schedule.