10.8.10 Issue #448 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Teamwork Underground
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

It’s been two months since 33 miners were buried half a mile underground in San José, Chile. At Day 40, they rejoiced the birth of one miner’s first child. At Day 50, they celebrated the country’s bicentennial. They are surviving in harrowing, sweltering conditions. Truly an environment and situation of extreme stress. Yet their remarkable story is inspiring. It exemplifies the principles of effective teamwork.

Faced with life-and-death risks and challenges, these men are showing us that the essence of well being is to work as a group. Even when the world thought they were dead, they created a structured society. They established discipline and order out of chaos. Ranging in age from 19 to 63, they are managing their diversity with patience and encouragement. They developed a chain of command and divided their shelter into different functional areas. Natural leadership behaviors emerged with the most senior of the shift workers taking charge. He assigned roles to the others. Communication channels were put into place. They are engaged in useful daily tasks such as rationing food, daily exercise and predictable sleep cycles. These activities have enabled them to stay busy, and more importantly, to have hope. Essentially they are contributing to something greater than themselves. Together they are demonstrating that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The miners have a clear purpose - survival. Does your team know what their purpose is? Lack of clarity about purpose is a common cause of team failure. Your employees should be able to give the same answer to the question: What are we here to accomplish? When the team’s purpose is clear to everyone, there is motivation, ongoing effort and willingness to endure setbacks and overcome tough obstacles.

The miners have an empowering structure. As the leader of your team, you are responsible for the roles, responsibilities and competencies of your staff. The process by which the team carries out their work needs to be reviewed periodically to see if they are working well. Teams that feel a sense of ownership about the procedures and processes they use are more motivated to follow them thoroughly.

In addition to clarity about roles is the importance of organizational support. If you want your team to work collectively, they need to be rewarded for team performance. Often dental practices compensate employees for individual work which encourages people to focus their efforts and time into solo tasks. However, when the group is rewarded for their joint efforts they tend to hold each other accountable. This minimizes blame and raises the standard for work behavior.

Above all, effective team work requires a foundation of positive relationships. Ultimately, team problems stem from interpersonal strife and tension. Trust and espirit de corps are damaged. Competitive interests soar and cooperation wanes. Employees become preoccupied with who is or isn’t doing their share, leading to finger pointing, conflict and even turnover.

Just as with the 33 miners, personal ties are fundamental in keeping the group focused on the goals they need to achieve. As the dental leader, you need to bring your employees together to show them a possible future. A good intervention is an off-site meeting or team retreat to build camaraderie and reinforce team identity. Remind them of the need to remain united and act together. While they may not be in a life-and-death rescue situation, your team does have complex challenges to solve. Help them to do so collectively, for their “survival” and your own.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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