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Published on October 15, 2018

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

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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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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