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How Teamwork in the Workplace Boosts Morale and Delivers Results

How Teamwork in the Workplace Boosts Morale and Delivers Results

If you want a lesson on team morale and its criticality, just look to American soldiers in World War II and Vietnam. These were very different times, exceedingly different public networks of morale, and as history tells, very different outcomes.

Morale is the confidence, enthusiasm and discipline of a person or a group. Many factors combine to create or destroy team morale.

Military organizations know this. They know that a lack of morale hinders everything, which for warfare can mean the loss of a nation. This reality causes the military to boost the morale of every soldier and every squad at every opportunity.

But it doesn’t stop with the soldiers. Military organizations also maintain and enhance the morale of the commanders, wives, husbands and children of soldiers, and of the nation in general. If they didn’t, a soldier or his team dodging bullets in a warzone hellscape might lose “the confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline” necessary to survive.

Since teamwork in the workplace is critical to a successful business, your teams’ morale is critical as well.

And as you may have guessed from my soldier example, it involves more than just individual workers in a team. It involves the individual, the team, the department, other departments, the division, the entire company, the community outside of the company and even the spouses and children of employees.

You need to make as many people working, and supporting workers, excited about the mission and the outcomes.

As a leader, you cannot leave this to chance. It is one of the Tough Things First that you must do. It is a daily task for a CEO, a priority because when team morale falters, so does the team. And when the team falters, so does the company.

Here are 9 tips that are helpful in maintaining and growing morale in your company:

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1. Play

Many people rightly live by the creed that “the family that plays together stays together,” because it is true. The same applies to any group of people who, like families, spend a great deal of time together.

You cannot know, and thus cannot like and trust a person wholly if you only know one aspect of them. When you only “work” with people, those people become an object of labor, not happiness.

Get your teams out of the work environment for social interactions. It can be a Friday beer bust, a company picnic, or even a formal social event. Just put the same people, and preferably people from different but cooperating departments someplace where “work” is not being done.

2. Slay Silos

All organizations tend to create silos, most often around teams, be it a small work group or a global division. This is quite natural, but such organizational silos stymie teamwork and team building.

Silos are literally barriers to organizational effectiveness, and thus barriers to morale. It is best to prevent silos from happening rather than tearing them down, though the latter must occur once silos arise.

When people are brought together from across organizations, and they discuss their needs in the framework of the company mission, the need to aid and cooperate helps dissolve silos.

A mutual mission is always the key to people working together, including entire divisions cooperating and supporting one another.

3. Meet

Regular meetings between organizational units fosters teamwork.

“Regular” is the key concept. One-time meetings to force alignment have a short lifetime of effectiveness.

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But regular meetings, where the issues of the week/month/quarter/year are placed on the table help people see what is hindering success. Your purchasing team needs to meet regularly with your manufacturing team. Your engineering teams need to meet with your marketing teams.

Anywhere one teams’ work affects other teams is an ongoing opportunity for regular meetings.

4. Recognition

People and teams like praise, and they like being recognized for their effort. It sounds simple, but authentic praise is more uplifting than a bonus check.

Rewarding an organization that demonstrates good teamwork encourages the same across other parts of the company. In some companies, cross-functional cooperation can become a competitive streak.

The goal is cross-functional harmony – all parts of the company working cooperatively, and thus raising everybody’s morale in the process.

5. Activities

Regular company activities foster and develop teamwork. Why? Because humans need to know people in order to trust them to be part of any team.

If you took several employees and put them on a team for tug-of-war at the company picnic, they would understand that they can count on the others to (pun intended) pull their weight.

Putting employees who should know, but don’t know one another together on a personal basis expands their willingness to engage one another in their work, and that willingness improves morale.

6. Peer-Apart Recognition

At Micrel, the semiconductor company I founded and led for 37 years, we facilitated employee recognition from across silos. In other words, employees received recognition not from their teammates – they did that too – but from other departments.

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We had a program to nominate an “Employee of the Quarter”, the nominations coming from a different department than the one in which the employee works. But this process need not be restricted to individuals.

Entire teams can be recognized in the same way. This concept could be expanded to “Organization of the Quarter” with nominations by other groups within the company organizations.

7. Mixed Meetings

Why restrict a meeting to just people on a team? Have weekly meetings and invite representatives from each organization to attend.

Imagine an engineering team meeting with a representative or two from design, manufacturing, marketing, sales, HR, etc. Expand this even more by conducting “company coordination meetings” whereby cross-team representatives meet to tackle company-wide issues.

This worked very well at Micrel. Just be sure to change-up the invitees, so everyone attends one of these meetings at some point. It is this cycling that makes every employee feel they are contributing and that they are part of the company, not just their work group.

8. Help First

Encourage employees to answer their phone, their emails, any communication, by saying “how can I help you?” Those five simple words change the nature of every interaction, by making assistance the goal.

Knowing that you are likely to be helped, raises your morale because you never become pre-programmed for defeat.

When you make this a company-wide habit, the spirit of helping first prevails. And when every employee knows that everyone in a company is instantly willing, perhaps even anxious to help, morale expands geometrically.

9. First Name Basis

Encourage everyone to learn employees’ first names. This may sound trivial, but familiarity breeds trust.

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This minor intimacy is essential to breaking down barriers, and it simultaneously boosts morale.

The Bottom Line

Morale is raised or impeded, boosted or barricaded. It is as important to recognize those things that prevent morale as it is to raise morale.

Recognizing each aspect of morale  – confidence, enthusiasm, discipline – their current conditions, and what is making each aspect less than it should be tells you what needs to be done.

For example, morale can fade simply through inattention. If workers don’t think they are appreciated for their effort, then their morale suffers. In our analysis of this particular ailment, a boost – even simple praise – is called for. There were no impediments to morale, but there was a lack of encouragement from management.

On the other side of the coin might be a situation where there is a lack of support for the mission and associated tasks from other groups. This lack of cross-organizational support likely comes from silos – self-created isolation between groups – which can cause morale to suffer greatly due to the feeling of “we have to do this all on our own”. This barrier needs removing to keep morale from rapidly sinking.

External factors too can be a psychological barrier to morale. If changes in your market, your competition, or the economy generate doubt among employees, you need to enhance their belief in survival while knocking down the perceived barriers to success.

Most importantly though is teamwork. The sense of working together is very important for morale.

When an employee strives to complete the organization’s mission, but feels like everyone else is not on the same team – that they are creating barriers and failing in their esprit de corps – morale is impossible.

It is your company’s leadership that has the responsibility to focus everyone on the same mission, clear the barriers to achievement, and reward the team effort. Combined, this creates unbeatable morale.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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