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Team Building - A Race Against Yourself

Dec 13, 2007
How do you make the environment in your business conducive to team building?

In the past this was often done with merit pay raises, employee of the month awards and other performance based incentives and gifts. Many businesses that are interested in team building today are finding that these approaches do not work as well as they would like nor do employees respond in a generally favorable manner.

For instance if you have an employee that gives his or her all and they are routinely named "Employee of the Month" you may find fewer and fewer people working as hard because they know they don't really stand a chance and they just don't feel it is worth the effort. The end result is less output from the majority of your team and your 'Employee of the Month' can't make up the difference no matter how hard they work.

Please don't think that I am opposed to gifts based on merit, but team leaders should work to make the merit system based on improved personal performance and let the rewards be presented personally and without making it something that is publicly lauded. There may be a time and place for this type of public gesture, but these individual gifts of appreciation may be given as the team leader sees improvement. This allows each team member to understand they are valued by their leader and are making a contribution that is recognized.

Let me be clear, the only competition a team member should face is themselves. You can help them set and achieve certain goals that make them a more valued member of the team and improve the overall performance of the staff.

This does not mean you hand out daily (or even weekly) rewards, but you should look for moments when you can honestly compliment your team members for their service, dedication and hard work.

Gifts can be personalized based on the unique interests of the team member. You can learn a lot abut your team by having them fill out a questionnaire regarding their interests, hobbies and what they could do if they had a whole weekend away.

These can all be fuel for rewarding your team members in a way that packs more punch than flowers, a box of candy. a company pen and mug or an employee of the month plaque.

When your team members understand they are challenging themselves they will often rise to a personal challenge in a much greater way than if they feel they are competing with everyone else. The later concept breeds discontent and a sense of apathy among the team while the former works to ensure everyone improves and contributes to team success. It also lets your team know you are paying attention and that their work is important to you.

If you've been modeling your team approach after company-wide competition you will likely find it is only effective with a minority of your team. When you work to make the competition personal and attainable everybody wins.
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