Getting To A More Productive Team

On top of the filing shelf above his desk, Daryl Wayne Wilkerson, vice president of Support Services at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, has a stack of four Lego building blocks that read “Together Everyone Achieves More” — a popular interpretation of the word team. “I don’t joke about that,” Wilkerson says. “In a job where things easily go wrong, you need everyone on the same team.”

Wilkerson, who oversees the management of approximately 1,000 nonclinical staff, says The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass; $24.95) helped him understand the importance of employee development, bolstering team efforts, and reducing conflict in the workplace.

Consider the following:

Managers don’t know it all. Supervisors lose the trust of their employees by failing to listen to them. Managers must develop an environment where employees feel engaged. Employees are most productive in environments that support their ideas.

Communication is key. A noncommunicative relationship with a supervisor is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to advancing an employee’s career because the supervisor evaluates promotion potential. Wilkerson suggests maintaining an open line of dialogue with managers, even scheduling a private meeting to discuss specific concerns. Focus on the facts and never degenerate into personal attacks. Managers and employees prefer to avoid conflict, but open and honest discussions about where communication may have broken down can lead to productive insight and improved team relations for future projects.

Intrapreneurship is the opportunity to exercise your entrepreneurial skills within a company or organization. It is a great way to gain corporate independence as well as increase your profile within the company and the industry. Robert Wallace, author and CEO of Bithgroup Technologies Inc. in Baltimore, shares what it takes to become a successful intrapreneur.

Understand that an intrapreneurial venture requires many of the same skills as starting your own business. Is there a need for this separate business unit? Will you be able to manage the budget and resources required for success? How will you increase value over time?

Develop a business plan. Plan for development, sustainability, and growth with provisions made for change and innovations. Wallace also suggests that as you develop your plan, consider your professional goals and how the structure of your business plan will address them.

Know the rules of engagement in your company. “Every organization has a culture, and the culture defines the rules about how success is attained,” Wallace explains. How receptive is your organization to new ideas or business concepts? What have been the channels of completion for other projects? “A lot of minority professionals don’t understand that it’s not just about the credentials and how hard you work.”

Build strategic alliances that advance you. To move any idea forward, an employee needs the advice and support of mentors and advocates, senior level executives who will advise you on how to manage the political climate.

This story originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.