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How to Put the “I” in Teamwork

on 18 April 2018


Posted by Kevin Senior

Management books are filled with mentions of teamwork, and the importance of having employees work well together as a team is well understood. The problem is how to make it happen. Generally, the focus is on how managers can bring their teams together. What people forget is that managers themselves are a critical part of the team. Here are ways to make sure you aren’t the missing link in your team.


Adjust Your Worldview

You need to avoid thinking of yourself as separate from the rest of your team. Being in management can quickly lead to us vs them attitude. While some separation is normal, it’s important not to take it too far. You need to be able to evaluate your workers’ performance and allocate assignments. This requires the ability to be unbiased and avoid being too much of the gang. Maintaining this balance can be difficult.

The first step is playing a closer look to how you view your employees. With the day-to-day stress of dealing with staff, it is easy to get bogged down in the details. Before you know it, you may see workers more in terms of their number of sick days, annual bonuses, and what time they show up for work. While those things are important, there is a big picture as well. Keep in mind that they are just people, like you, and that you should all be working together to make work successful.



As the manager, you are ultimately responsible. You realise this when it comes to meeting quarterly budgets or sales goals, but do you step up when needed? Look at what happens when your team gets behind, is struggling to make a deadline, or when someone is off sick. Do you increase your attempts to spur them into working harder, faster, or longer? Or do you join in and help them get the work done. 

It is important that you set an example but stepping up when there is work to be done. Your employees need to know that you have their backs and will make sure everything gets finished. It makes it clear that you are all part of a team and will work together. Your employees need to know that they can rely on you. Nothing sets a worse example than a manager enjoying a long lunch or going home early while their employees are staying late, struggling to finish a project by a deadline.    

Taking responsibility includes taking the lead when there is trouble. You may need to discipline employees when there is a serious problem. At the same time, it shouldn’t look like you are blaming employees. Your staff will notice how you react when there is trouble. Decide now if you are going to be the type of boss employees can depend on.


Use The Right Language

Part of your ability to lead is how your employees perceive your ability to lead. The same actions can be interpreted completely differently if they are accompanied by even subtle differences in wording. Use inclusive language like “we” when you are talking to your team, particularly if you are discussing challenges that your team are facing. Don’t make it all about “them” and leave yourself off the hook. Make it clear that you are all in this together and you will work as a team to resolve any problems.


Get your Hands Dirty

There is a common perception that managers lose touch with what’s required to complete the jobs the staff perform. Perhaps you used to do this work or maybe you never have. Now is the time to make sure you are still aware of what is involved in the daily work your teams complete. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. If you are wandering through the work area and you can quickly lend a hand, why not do so? It may seem like a very small thing to spend a few moments carrying boxes to the mailroom or sweeping up but your willingness to make this effort will go a long way toward showing your staff leadership. It will also help to make sure understand the work. This is particularly important if those job requirements have changed over the years. You need to know what makes your employees’ jobs more difficult and what types of challenges they face.



About this author: Kevin Senior

Managing Director at Glasscubes. With over 30 years experience working with businesses of all sizes and industries, Kevin brings success to fast growing companies advising on best practices and growth lead technology solutions.