Culture: Involvement – Team Orientation

by Ron Potter

The Team Orientation of Involvement contains several wonderful elements.

  • Cooperation is Encouraged
  • People are not isolated pieces
  • Teamwork is used over Hierarchy
  • People see the relationship between their work and the work of the team (teams)

Problem Solving

I think one of the first things that get in the way team orientation is that corporate leaders and members are problem solvers.  Don’t get me wrong, problem-solving is a wonderful skill and is the reason why most people get promoted in organizations.  But it can also be the first thing that gets in the way of good team orientation.

Email Overload

As a consultant, I was often asked how to reduce the amount of email that was a burden to everyone.  I always looked at three things:

  1. Why was the email sent?
  2. What was the response?
  3. Who was cc:d on the email?
Why was the email sent?

The answer to this question was always something like:

I gave this person an assignment and they were looking for an answer or a solution.

What was the response?

The answer to this question was almost always – I sent them the answer or solution.

Who was cc:d?

The answer to this one always seemed a little more cynical.  It would go something like – Everybody and their brother

Immediately eliminate 40% of email

The solution to almost all overload email is accountability.  This incorporates questions one and two.

I would suggest to the leader that they stop reading email with the intent to respond.  And start asking themselves the question “Why am I receiving this email?”

Because corporate leaders are good problem solvers, their immediate (non-thinking) response is to figure out the problem and send the answer.  However, if they look at every email with the first question being, “Why am I receiving this email?”  their response becomes different than providing a solution.

Why am I receiving this email?

Some of the responses I’ve heard from the Leader:

  • I don’t have the right expertise on the team
  • The person sending the email doesn’t like the answer their getting from the team
  • The person doesn’t want to be held accountable for the solution.  Now they have an email to prove that I gave the solution, not them.

This last answer is hardly ever seen by the leader (they’re problem solvers.  They feel good about themselves for giving answers).  But it’s the reason many emails are generated.  It’s an easy way to get the monkey off their back and onto the back of the leader.  And the leader seldom notices.

Answer with a different response

I suggest that the leader answer the email with a simple question, “Why are you sending me this email?”

40% of email will cease!

This response sends the message “I’m not accepting the monkey”.  Figure it out.  It’s why I gave you the job.  Come to me with solutions, not questions.

Notice that this one response touches three and maybe all four of the Team Oriented Culture elements.

  1. Cooperation is Encouraged – It encourages the individual to work with their peers.  Cooperate.  Engage!
  2. People are not isolated pieces – It’s not just one person solving a problem (or their boss solving it for them).  Again, they need to engage with the team and peers.
  3. Teamwork is used over Hierarchy – I’m starting to sound like a broken record here but it’s not a top-down solution.
  4. People see the relationship between their work and the work of the team – Decisions are not made in isolation.  It’s not just the boss who sees the big picture.  The individual must understand it as well to provide a workable solution.

I used the example of email but it can be any electronic media.  In fact, texting adds a sense of urgency that makes the leader feel they must give a solution rapidly.

But, it can also apply to one-on-one meetings and even happen in team meetings.

Solution or Team Orientation

This idea that the leader should also be the problem solver is at the heart of most of these team orientation issues.  It’s a tough habit to break.  Don’t just solve the problem,

  • Encouraged cooperation
  • Make sure everyone functions as part of the whole, not just individual pieces
  • Don’t perpetuate the hierarchy, build the team
  • Make sure everyone understands how their actions and solutions impact the team

Create a team orientation, you’ll get better involvement.

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