Success of a business, and a project alike, lies mainly on the team building. A great team environment is the major factor, I would say upto 70%, to the project success, while balance can be attributed to skill sets and other ingredients. A highly motivated inclusive team even with lesser skill set can achieve any target while a disgruntled team of highly skilled individuals will surely achieve less than their potential. Learning new skills is easier than building a cohesive team!
In our project management journey we jump, albeit instinctively, to learning pond and try to gulp whatever skills we can, some dated rest soon to be outdated. We forget, not all but generally, to learn something which is simple almost free and a sustained source of project success – The TEAM Building.
Team building is easy and simple yet difficult to sustain it for longer period. Team destroying factors are many, I listed four most potent of them termed as GEEF® factors i.e. Greed, Ego, Envy and Fear.
GEEF® impact invariably results in a winner and one or more losers, which is against the basic premise of team building. A team is not build on hierarchy of winners-losers but principle of all being winners.
Greed is a potent destroyer not only to a team but even empires, businesses and even economies. Lest we forget economic crash of 2008-09, solely attributable to greed of few companies (few greedy men). Money is a great motivator but it works only when in balance with enjoyable work. People will join a high paying company, barter their time for money, but work happily-which means more creativity & better output, and work longer only and only if they enjoy their work.
Unfortunately, current system of employee performance evaluation, generally, is disoriented to say the least. From fixing goals to evaluation and rewarding based on certain preconceived numbers, modern evaluation system hardly takes cognizance of team building or team destroying. This enables rat-race and creates a greedy environment wherein people tend to focus on their targets even if it is achieved trampling co-workers’. Greed may let someone win for a short period, have the rewards and enjoy it too, but it will never let a team be built. Long-term business success can never be achieved without a sustainable team, and without a long-term investment in team building. Greed is stupidity.
Absence of greed doesn’t mean equality of rewards- it never happens, not even skill proportionate rewards-ideally yes-seldom achieved, but an environment where one doesn’t eat others’ share of rewards, where rewards are shared as well as successes & failures.
Greed of managers/seniors/owners matter most, highly toxic to team building, than of regular workers. Generally, efforts move in pyramidal mode-from bottom to top, while rewards flow from top to bottom in inverted pyramidal way. A greedy boss at top when grabs all the rewards, meant for others- it disrupts effort-reward balance leading to a disgruntled team. Such organizations disappear in dust bin of history sooner than later.
Greed is very dangerous, no less dangerous than termite, and as stated above to not only teams but organizations and society and humanity too.
Solution to greed is not easy. Greed is inherent to human nature, so stop trying to abolish it. Instead, try to control it, taper it, keep within limits. Some tips to help-
- Transparency is the key. Rewards must be fair, equitable, and everyone must know about this – communication is important.
- Make the work source of fun, let every team-mate share it.
- Work-family balance is important; many believe it, more so on paper, but fail to implement it.
- Tell the money-greedy lizards the story of how very rich people, many of them, end up giving it up in charity; no one takes the money to wherever they go, or don’t go, after they leave this place. Money is not everything- in fact it’s foolish to grab more money than need, and sheer stupidity to dedicate life for only money making.
- Fairness alone can contain work-place greed, only if we can imbibe fairness in all our work place dealings.
Ego is not necessarily a wholly bad trait. Limited ego keeps the motivation alive especially in people who are low on self-motivation. Ego may be a catalyst if it confines within the acceptable limits of self-esteem or self-importance. Beyond that, when it reflects in arrogance, feeling of one being superior than others-mainly on false pretenses, ego is bad. Ego clashes are nasty, destructive to team-building and harmful to businesses large and small.
Workplace ego clashes may happen for varied reasons; it can be the result of a personality conflict, professional jealousy, how the business is structured, cultural issues, result of office politics, communication issues, or a result of someone trying to establish themselves as the alpha female or male.
Ego clashes are dangerous, if left unresolved it will be stressful on workers, demoralize the team, reduce productivity, tarnish image of an organization and harm the business in long term. In small enterprises/projects the ego clashes may result in a worse scenario because people usually need to work more closely together.
Ego creates walls within team. One of the shortest solution to ego is to satisfy it; this however is short term remedy- for, once quenched the thirst of superiority complex will swell uncontrolled. Nature is best remedial source, for it always teaches lessons, but that’s the longest path; organizations, teams can’t wait ‘nature’s justice’ to happen. A successful team leader may act as follows: -
- Never say if someone has ego, it will surely increase without the sufferer accepting it- don’t douse the fire with fire. Instead, use terms like ‘having different point of views, different perspective, but this should not be the only perspective-let other’s point of view be heard too. Being polite helps.
- Ego originates from falsehood, someone’s idea of false superiority; bring the reality back establishing merit of truth and hollowness of fakery.
- Ego may result in bullying-politeness in such extreme cases is an outdated idea. A bully must be tamed.
- Control braggers- they’re the starter of ego circle.
- Lessons of life- humbleness, gratitude, honesty et al are best dousers of ego fire.
Envy, the distress people feel when others get what they aspire, is universal. It appears to be a soft devil but it too can lead to a disastrous outcome if not controlled timely. Envy in small doses may work as catalyst to aspire, perform better and strive to achieve more. Envy is fatally disturbing when it turns from momentary jealousy to aggravating resentment occupying thought process all the time. Envy whence corroborates with greed, ego and fear, it may result in spiral downfall of individual-personally and professionally, work culture and team environment.
Envious people become so fixated on a rival that they lose their focus on their own performance. An envious person not only harms himself but, much worse, he instigates an environment of suspicion and hatred among the team. First link of an office gossip is always conspired by an envious employee.
Expecting a person to be completely envy-free is not only exacting too much but also unnatural. It is one of the ingrained virtue of human being from the days of Adam and likely to remain that way. However curbing excessive envy is easy, and possible. There are plenty of write ups available on how to make an envy-free environment, including high value (fee) coaches. Some practical tips are-
- Don’t go overboard in celebrating your own successes, even if you do involve others too; give credit to your team-mates if due and if not, just let them know how valuable their moral support is.
- Be happy on other’s success; an honest smile, saying congrats and a genuine hand shake costs nothing, try - it really costs nothing. Remember, it’s not only the words but how they’re uttered and associated body language makes the difference.
- Don’t compare yourself with others and anyone, everyone; you don’t know their circumstances.
Fear is one of the root causes of why people behave negatively-aggressively and enviously, at work place. It’s a potent destroyer of the team spirit. Fear of losing out to others, or fear of others may harm professionally plays crucial role in how people behave grumpily within teams. Fear breaks the basic foundation of the team building that is ‘trust’ within the team.
Fear compasses not only horizontally, among peers, but vertically too, within subordinates and superiors. An incompetent boss is always fearful of a competent subordinate with a fearful possibility of losing his position.
Once upon a time in history, fear was the key instrument to getting things done from the days of authoritarian managers to assembly lines of socialism days. Unfortunately, it is still fully operative, consciously or otherwise. It is there, albeit in more sophisticated forms, rebranded as cultural norms and organizational systems and structures. Fear can still get things done; but it will never let the team be formed. Fear is enemy of engagement, it creates islands.
21st century leaders can’t let fear be their tool to succeed. It has to be eradicated from work places. Quick tips to have a fear-free work place are-
- Fear is a primitive emotional instrument incurred mainly due to ignorance and lack of self-awareness, let this be replaced with emotional intelligence based on ethics and competence.
- Empower people: delegate power – it helps not only minimizing leader’s work burden but creates positive impact on teams; Enrich Their Skills- lack of skills is main reason for fear;
- Reduce work load: 20-40% work is always wastage work, either not needed at first place or just asked by an ignorant or over-jealous boss. A study reveals that employees end up getting more work on the day prior to going on vacation. Common sense reveals, an incompetent boss unable to handle the pressure is the reason, or envy of someone having ‘fun’ outside plays the role.
- Transparency, specially by senior management, owners of business, is the key to have a fear-free environment. Hiring & firing if based on proper established processes and not as per whims & fancy of middle management, will lead to a fear-free environment.
GEEF® is critical to team success.
Interestingly, ‘managers’ do tend to exploit it for the quick fixes and short-term benefits. GEEF® factors when encouraged in controlled milieu may produce higher results but for shorter period of time. However, for the long-term success of the organization, as ‘leaders’ do, GEEF® factors must be contained and teams be gotten rid of these destroyers.
Master Solution to GEEF® at workplace:
While there is enormous literature, ideas, coaching and much more available to sort out these issues, I find one sure shot, practical and time-tested formula to minimize impact of GEEF® at work place. That is Team-Sports. Specially the field sports involving teams are the best cure. People, not only disgruntled co-workers but even the enemies, will mend their ways for a cohesive friendly atmosphere.
There is something, perhaps-
- the chemical changes (positive) which certain exercises bring to body, or
- free communication among mates,
- or being away from depressing workplace settings,
- or having no boss but only team-mates around,
- or all of above
helps release the best of hormones in people to gel together, to behave like a team and if repeated regularly it lasts for ever.