KANTOR: Teamwork speeds special projects

Columnist Jan Kantor

Photo by LEXEY SWALL

Columnist Jan Kantor

In the workplace, it's often necessary to form committees or special task forces to research projects or carry out large assignments. As the manager or department supervisor, it's usually your job to choose the teams and oversee group responsibilities and progress. Whether you schedule staff haphazardly or handpick members for their unique abilities, getting your team organized and keeping them motivated throughout the campaign takes patience and skill. In my experience work teams are the most underutilized tool in companies of all sizes. The value of harnessing the creative potential of your resources is in many cases, the difference between a strong vibrant organization and one that struggles consistently.

You must keep your people excited about the goal. Your job, as master controller and guiding hand, can be accomplished much easier if you remember the following guidelines:

Know what kind of team you need. Will it be a tightly organized unit where members work closely together? If so, team associates must be able to interact well on a long term basis.

Pick employees who are compatible and whose abilities can get the job done. Especially on projects requiring long periods of time, it's essential that teams be professionally, and temperamentally, in tune.

If teams require less regular individual involvement, you can again assign the best qualified employee for each task, even if he or she is the "loner" type and works best in an unstructured environment. You need only have consistent meetings to make sure progress is kept on track.

Give directions that make sense. If you don't know where you're going or exactly what you want, how can your people follow through? Be clear in what you expect. You set the destination and overall path; your team handles the details. This insures a well planned, comprehensive, effective campaign, instead of a muddled, confusing, and insufficiently completed assignment.

Lead the group but let them establish objectives. You outline the main idea and make suggestions as to course strategy but team members need to carry the ball. You want them to brainstorm together and set up the steps to take, with your conceptual guidance. As they work in unison, a closer rapport, and thus increased productivity, results. This is particularly effective for a lengthy, time consuming project.

Keep the momentum going. Maintain frequent contact with all members to make sure the expectancy level stays high and there are no questions left unanswered. Unanswered questions often lead from puzzlement to frustration to de-motivated action.

Keep progress steady by having weekly meetings to update details, make new changes, or to discuss information. Team members need your input and leader role, so be available when needed. Your direct involvement on a regular basis ensures steady results. If objectives have to be changed during the project, make sure team members understand why and how it affects their responsibilities. Handle necessary adjustments and consult with members individually, if necessary.

Be fair. Though team members have their own specific qualifications that ensure proportionate work load, never assume, or indicate, that one does more than another. Even if one does. (You may note it privately to yourself and act accordingly at some future time.)

Team members may be volunteers, but they are still employees and must be treated with respect, encouragement, and gratitude. If you show genuine interest in their progress, individually and as a team, your positive attitude will soon be their positive attitude. Find ways to compensate team effort, whether it's through bonuses, awards, parties, or raises. People work better when they know they are not being taken for granted and when incentives are tied with performance. Don't you?

Jan Kantor is ready to offer workplace solutions for issues, problems or things that are bugging you. Visit his website at www.jankantor.com. Click on “Workplace Solutions for You” on the right side of the home page. Then ask your question!

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