Go Team!

When key personnel began leaving the volunteer nonprofit he directed, Thomas Beauford, a vice president with HSBC bank in Buffalo, New York, was determined to turn around the organization . But how do you get workers with different personalities, varying strengths and weaknesses, and individual career outlooks to feel like contributing members to an organization’s unifying goals? The thought alone was frustrating.

Lisa A. Bing, founder and owner of Brooklyn, New York-based Bing Consulting Group, who worked with Beauford to establish clear objectives for creating a more cohesive organization, explains that developing a collaborative work climate should be a top priority. “With a dearth of talent, certain [work] characteristics are critically important,” she says, as is an environment in which people work well together. Making the effort to create a collaborative business climate is essential for business success.

But there are also personal advantages to working with professionals who are team-minded. “When you’re able to take in ideas and consider alternative views, it fosters and stimulates your own creative process or your own strategic thinking process,” notes Bing. “Frankly, it’s just more fun to work with somebody who’s easy to work with.”

It can, however, be difficult for employers to assess teamwork skills, says James Phills, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “It’s important in the context of rÈsumÈs, cover letters, or interviews to be able to convey [how] in their prior job or educational experience they have worked in teams and been effective,” says Phills, who has taught courses regularly on managing groups and teams since 1993. “Increasingly, organizations are looking for people with the capacity to take on leadership responsibility and initiative.”

It’s important that interviewees, he adds, convey experiences that illustrate their ability to work effectively on teams and to exercise leadership and successfully direct the team’s efforts.

A Strong Team = A Productive Team
Interdependency of Departments: The demands that organizations and businesses are expected to meet in today’s marketplace are increasingly more interrelated and, as a result, more complex. Departments cannot afford to operate in independent silos. Business divisions today share more internal resources as well as information in an effort to identify better opportunities and maximize potential outcome. A cohesive organization, one that operates as a team, is essential to encourage successful mutual exchanges between functions and departments.

Heightened Creativity: Differences of opinion drive creative energies in an organization. “Creativity only happens when there are different points of view and when there is some challenge of the status quo,” says Bing. That can only be achieved in an environment where all views, opinions, and ideas are respected. “Having a collaborative climate is critically important to creativity and innovation.” Teamwork fosters the creative process, she adds.

Attracting and Retaining Talent: Organizations are competing for talent. So employees have options, especially those who have effective communication skills and who know how to share ideas and accept various viewpoints. Those who are skilled, compassionate, and committed want to feel that they can contribute in an environment that will support their talents. An