Riddell: No pain, but we need the gain
Not Business as Usual
Most consumers would happily admit to a pleasant surprise when they experience a truly satisfying encounter with almost any company. Despite most claims and advertisements to the contrary, superior customer satisfaction is so relatively rare these days that poor service has become the acceptable norm.
But every now and then we’ll have a business transaction that far exceeds the deplorable norm. And when you do have this experience you need to understand that it is not by accident. Somewhere along the way an owner or manager has made the conscious effort to build a team with your satisfaction as its goal. So what is this team stuff in business and why can’t every company make it work?
Probably the single biggest mistake well intentioned business people make is extrapolating our notion of teamwork in sports to teamwork in business. While there are clearly useful similarities, there is one fundamental difference and awareness of this difference is critical.
Sports activities have clear winners and losers coinciding with a clearly defined end of competition. When the game is over, you go on to the next game and the next opponent. Your success as a team is based solely upon your past results.
In business it is usually exactly the opposite. Your success as a business is in your ability to continue the relationship — again and again. Successful business is an ongoing process — you win, I win. Sporting competition is a zero sum —I win, you lose. In today’s highly competitive business environment, customer based zero sum is a very expensive mistake.
One of the fundamental hallmarks of any team structure is a clear goal (winning) with the unambiguous connection between an individual’s daily activities and the goal. Athletic and military team members develop a critical esprit de corps through joint suffering and joint successes. There is a development of confidence and co-dependence by team members that is almost impossible to convey to folks not on the team. And yet it is with this intangible belief that groups of individuals come together and succeed beyond their wildest dreams. So while acknowledging that the power of teamwork is indeed great and something everyone should have an opportunity to embrace, let’s be realistic and recognize that the business world is not conducive to group suffering. So without this commonality how do organizations develop effective teams?
As previously mentioned, the first step is to recognize that teamwork in business is not the same as teamwork in sports. Commonality of developmental experience (suffering/success) has to be replaced with commonality of goal attainment and reward. In most businesses this translates into a clearly defined outcome followed by some sort of financial result.
From a managerial perspective, it is important to understand that this group financial reward must be connected to successful decisions and behavior, both rooted in training and education. But these factors alone do not foster a team. Upon examination what emerges is the realization that successful managers and developers of business teams spend an exorbitant amount of time talking with team members, trying to make sure that the personal goals of these members are in line with the overall goal of the team. Properly aligned personal goals are the means to the end team goal.
Said differently, as an employee, when I contribute to the success of the team’s goal, it is also in line with some of my personal goals or ambitions, therefore I’m keen on doing it. With some talent, some training, and some education, the results can be magic. Magic is synonymous with a satisfied customer, one who does repeated business with the company, and one who tells others about the good experience.
In our next column we’ll talk about how to get employee “buy in” to team development and why this is critical to any anticipated success.
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
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