To get your people to work as team, lead by example

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Business leaders seek employees who can be contributing members of a team. The operative word is “team.”

One key to succeeding in any work environment is getting along with others.

Those who can’t or won’t work well in groups create negative effects that ripple through the organization.

Once a person completes their formal education, at whatever level, it’s reasonable to expect that person to know how to be a good coworker while employed. Unfortunately, this isn’t always so.

However much team-building practice schools provide, not everyone masters the “people skills” they should have learned in elementary, junior high and high school.

Let’s call an individual who is not a team player disruptive.

When first confronted about their poor behavior, the disruptive employee’s response is usually shock, disbelief and then anger.

Most likely, no one’s ever explained to the disruptive employee why their behavior upset, disappointed or frustrated their coworkers.

Why is that?

Far too many business leaders, at every level, ignore telltale signs of disruptive behavior. When convinced to confront it, leaders pass the buck down the chain of command, telling complaining employees to work it out.

That’s the coward’s way out. Too many business leaders are afraid to have a needed, but difficult conversation with a disruptive employee.

By the way, disruptive employees are found at every level in the organization, from the top down. I’ve known owners who were the most disruptive employee in their own company.

Every business leader, regardless of title, must set an example for others to follow when it comes to creating an effective and efficient team of employees.

Use what follows as guidelines for modeling behavior in your company so that your employees will see that you follow the mantra, “Do as I say, and as I do; I am a team player too.”

Be friendly

During the week, we spend more of our waking hours working with coworkers than with a spouse, significant other or family members. There’s no reason an individual at work cannot be friendly to their colleagues.

Co-workers need not become friends, but need to act in a friendly manner.  Greet people with a smile and acknowledge their presence.

Be polite

Model positive, polite behavior to those you work with. Say “please” and “thank you” every day. If you, as the leader, aren’t using these words frequently at work, there’s room for improvement.

Work quietly

Today’s work requires concentration and focus. So keep distractions, from whatever source, to a minimum.

Radios should be at low volumes, group conversations should take place in offices, or other private areas. Phones should be answered quickly. Phone conversations should be conducted in a moderate, considerate voice level. Yelling and shouting have no place in the work environment.

As leaders, it never hurts to ask those who work for you if there are things that are causing distractions from getting the job done.

Listen courteously

The most effective leaders I know listen far more than they talk. The worst ones lecture their employees.

A good way to listen is with lips closed, holding eye contact, and waiting until the other person is finished talking before responding.

As Stephen Covey has written, seek first to understand before you try to be understood.

Be honest

The phrase “I don’t know” has gone out of fashion at work. If more people used it, instead of hiding behind excuses, trust in most workplaces would increase immediately. It is possible to be honest without being malicious.

Be on time

Arriving at work on time, or early, is an issue of respect. Late arrivers are disrespectful of the organization and to their co-workers. As the leader, set the example in this regard.

Do your best

It’s hard for anyone to do their best when they don’t know what the goal is, don’t have the tools to do their job and don’t understand the expected standard of quality, or how to achieve it.

The best leaders are teachers, sharing what their expectations are clearly and concisely so that there is no room for doubt about what the deliverables are.

But more importantly, these individuals take the time and effort to teach others how to achieve these results.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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