TEAMS - The key to success, business in Thailand
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phuket Leisure: TEAMS

 The Key to Success: None of us is as smart as all of us

A good team player has the key to success. Being the smartest, being the brightest, being the hardest; all of these attributes that worked so well in business in years gone by, now will not push you up the ladder quickly. How good a team player you are and how well you share your knowledge with your colleagues is the all-important factor in growing your career today. If you can build a company culture that does not worry about who gets the credit for something, think about what you could achieve! To survive in the big bad tough working environment of today you don't need to have your own people competing with each other. It is the commercial "enemy' against whom all their energy should be focused.

It's not always easy to be a good team member and compromise your own views for the good of the whole, but it works for the betterment of the company. You have to believe in the workings and power of the team and recognize where your own strengths and contribution fits in. You have to be honest, both with yourself and with your team members. You will have conflict within the team and as long as this is controlled then it can be a very healthy element for both the team and the development of the business. Progress has rarely been made by reasonable men; most progress goes against the norm of the day or the conventional thinking of the day; but that progress, if harnessed within a team, has many more supporters and moves much more quickly than it would if it is the struggle of one man alone.

Research into high-performing teams shows that each member cares for the development of his team mates. This appreciation of each other's learning and development is key to the success of a team and the commitment of each member to the other.

Companies will always need self-starters and leaders, but these leaders must have something to lead; this something today in the most successful companies is well-managed and empowered teams, which have within them people who are not afraid to voice their own opinion and yet are as equally willing to really listen to the opinions of others and to learn from them.

Over 70% of a manager's time is spent in some form of group activity, often in meetings with others; relatively little time is spent in the supervising of single individuals or on one-to-one discussions, thus the need for team building. Indeed, the success of individual managers depends on how well that manager's team or teams improve in quality and productivity on a continuous basis. In reality, group productivity is more important than individual task accomplishment. The most effective teams are able to solve complex problems more easily than one person can, for many capable minds are brought to bear on an issue. However, all teams must be managed well by a capable facilitator who understands that every team is unique, dynamic and ever changing. Moreover, teams have behaviour patterns, just as individuals do and, just as children develop into adults, teams have developmental stages, being more productive and efficient at one stage than another. A team goes through a number of stages of development as it moves from a collection of individuals to a smoothly functioning unit that improves productivity, quality and human satisfaction in organizations.

It is desirable for team members to have the following attitudes; "I know what I have to do and the team's goals are clear", "I am willing to share some responsibility for leadership", "I am an active participant", "I feel appreciated and supported by others", "Other team members listen when I speak and I respect the opinions of others", "communication is open, new ideas are encouraged and we are having fun working together". Effective teamwork means that problem solving is more effective because the expertise of the entire team is available, performance feedback is more meaningful because team members understand what is expected of them and can monitor their performance against expectations, conflict is understood as normal and never becomes destructive, being viewed as an opportunity to resolve problems through open discussion. It is vital that the team is recognized for their contributions to the organization. The characteristics of high performing teams are that they have clarity of purpose and are truly empowered by the organization to discuss and resolve the problems brought to them; they have free communication and sustain excellent and respectful personal relationships thereby achieving optimal performance. As a result of regular recognition and appreciation of their work, the team morale in a high performing team remains high. Members of teams must be encouraged to test their abilities and to try out ideas. This becomes infectious and stimulates individuals to become stronger performers. However, all teams must have reasonably disciplined internal work habits and individual members have to conform their behaviour to meet team standards and expectations.

Teams soon develop a clear problem-solving process that can be applied time and again as long as their leader initially creates a common purpose and vision, pointing the team in the right direction.

Two men were working at different parts of a construction site in downtown Bangkok, each having a different supervisor. A passer-by enquired "what are you doing?" The first man replied, "I'm trying to crack granite"; the second man responded, "I'm part of a team building a temple".

One key to team success is that the leader must lead rather than manage the work of the team, thus, the team must be empowered to manage itself. The role of the leader is to interpret the company mission and goals to the team, to articulate those goals into team goals and objectives, to know how and when to bring further resources to the team and to assist in establishing deadlines and standards of performance. In addition, the team leader must ensure that realistic measurement criteria exist and that the team performs in a motivating and rewarding climate.

Cross-cultural issues can assail and impact the working of teams, but it is well to remember that, despite culture, most team members have similar objectives in life. Objectives that relate to happiness and health, to success and recognition, to love and being well-accepted by others. The clever team leader recognizes and plays upon these similarities while molding the cultural differences to benefit the team. Thai team members place a greater focus on personal relationships in everything they do while western team members are looking more for personal achievement. The values of assertiveness and accountability that the westerner has grown up with since childhood can often be happily tempered with the sophistication of compromise and consideration implicit in the education and behaviour of most Thais. The astute team leader understands the strengths of the values of the two cultures and works to mould them together for the good of the whole. Being kind, respectful and always bearing others in mind does not need to conflict with orientation toward goals and personal commitment. We have much to learn and appreciate from one another and there is no better place to make this cross-cultural wealth work than in a well-led team.


- December Issue, 2002

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