The 9 Eternal Rules of Teamwork

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 5:45 PM EDT

Teamwork is a universally acknowledged to be a desirable business attribute, but few organizations have a clear definition of what teamwork actually means or how to achieve it. This post provides nine rules defining teamwork, based on a conversation with Phil Geldart, author of the classic In Your Hands: the Behaviors of a World Class Leader.
  • RULE #1. A team must have a leader. In most sales groups the leader is the sale manager and the team members are that manager's direct reports. However, there are many cases when teams consist of people from different organizations, in which case, there still needs to be a team leader. The team leader is responsible for delivering the outcome that the team is expected to achieve, even though the leader will need to depend upon the team to deliver the result.
  • RULE #2. The team must have unanimous focus on a quantifiable goal. Teamwork is impossible if team members do not have a very clear idea of what they're trying to achieve. Teamwork requires that every member of the team understand exactly what the team is tasked with achieving. That sense of exactness is only possible when the team's goal can be measured in an objective way. Goals must therefore be quantifiable rather than vague and amorphous. Example: "Build better customer relationships" is unquantifiable and thus meaningless; "Convert 50 percent of qualified prospects to customers" is precise and measurable.
  • RULE #3. The team must have clearly defined roles. Every member of the team needs to know exactly what he or she must do, on a day-to-day basis to make sure that the team achieves its goals. Without that clarity, team-member will work at cross-purpose and trip over each other. Note that large teams may be broken up into small sub-teams, which must also have clearly defined roles. All of this must be thought through carefully and continually refined as the team moves forward.
  • RULE #4. The team must be willing to share its resources. Team members must be willing to share whatever resources they control that are required for the team to achieve its goal. These resources come in two varieties. The first are physical resources: money, materials, office space, computers, and so forth. The second are mental and emotional resources: ideas, suggestions, encouragement, and enthusiasm. If team members hoard either variety of resources, it detracts from the ability of team members to work together.
  • RULE #5. The team must have frequent, effective communication. The easy part of this principle is the frequency. Depending upon the goals and time frame, teams should meet at least once a week, more often if necessary. Effectiveness is more difficult. A communication is effective if and only if it is meaningful to the recipient. If the communication is taking place in such a way that even a single team member isn't "getting it" the team must keep retooling the communication until everybody is on board.
  • RULE #6. The team must have consistent, united and enthusiastic effort. A team cannot function effectively if everyone on the team isn't 100 percent committed to achieving the goals of the team. This kind of commitment expresses itself through consistency in behavior and doing what needs to be done in order to achieve the team's goals. Please note that this does not mean that team members should be sacrificing their private lives for the team. On the contrary, it's impossible for a team member to remain consistently enthusiastic while experiencing a life that's out of balance.
  • RULE #7. Team members must periodically suppress their own egos. A strong ego is a good thing, especially for sales professionals. However, for the team to function effectively, individuals on the team must hold their own egos in check and make the team, and the achieving of the team's goals, more important than the individual contributions of any one member. If the team members don't do this, grandstanding and prima-donna attitudes will frustrate the ability of the team to achieve its goals.
  • RULE #8: The team must be introspective. The team must figure out, as a team, where it is falling short. To do this, at every third team meeting, have each member state an area (i.e. one of the principles) where that member thinks the team needs work, and why. That's two sentences per team member, which means that even a large team should be able to self-diagnose within five to ten minutes. During this process, the team leader should look for patterns and repetitions that indicate a generic problem inside the team, and problems that an individual inside the team is experiencing that other members aren't experiencing.
  • RULE #9: The team must be capable of self-correction. For problems that are generic to the team, the team leader must either work with the team or with the surrounding environment to improve that principle. For problems that are specific to an individual, the team leader must work privately with that individual to make it possible for that individual to integrate better into the team and to perform the assigned role. Example: During several meetings an individual sales rep expresses intense dislike of the CRM system. The team leader meets with that individual privately to explain why the CRM system is essential to the team's performance and obtains a commitment from the complaining rep to do what's necessary to support the team.
NOTE: In Phil's system the first 7 rules are called "principles" and the 8th and 9th are "how to" methods to implement the 7 principles. For the purposes of clarity, I've made them into 9 rules, which I think makes the concepts easier to understand.
RELATED POSTS: NOTE: Similar tips and techniques are contained in my soon-to-be-published book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling, now available for pre-sale here.
    All pre-sale royalties are donated to Wide Horizons for Children, an organization that facilitates foreign adoptions and orphanages.
    • Geoffrey James

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