Business Teamwork: ‘One Band, One Sound’

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The phrase “one band, one sound” was delivered repeatedly in the 2002 movie Drum Line by the character Dr. Lee, band director at fictional Atlanta A&T University. 

He led a group of very talented musicians, each with their own strengths and talents, playing a variety of instruments that produced their own distinct sounds. The results could have been like cats howling in an alley, but when things went right, the notes flowed together to create powerful music that touched the soul.

Your challenge as a business leader is not unlike that of Dr. Lee: You have to take a team of diverse people, all with different skills and experiences, and produceThinkstock/iStock the sweet sound of business success.

In small businesses, unlike marching bands, the players don’t get a note-by-note score from which to play. They may not be performing in the same room or in the same building. They may not even know they’re supposed to be playing together as a group. When people are divided, business value is lost and connecting disjointed people isn’t easy.

Let’s take a look at some tried and true keys to bridging divides that can help your team, of whatever shape and form, to hit the right notes.

Foster trust

One key to successfully bringing together business partners, employees, and suppliers is trust. The actions you take can help foster, or hinder, that trust.

Authenticity — Good leaders are who they say they are; they have integrity beyond compare. The previous dividing line between one’s public and private self has been blurred by the internet and social media. Today’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging together their personal and professional lives.

Listening — When people talk, really pay attention to what they are saying. Good leaders listen to what their colleagues, customers, prospects and employees want and need, and they listen to what challenges they are facing.

Transparency — In today’s world there is no place to hide. Those in business who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier employees and happier customers.

Promote teamwork

There’s a saying among our Navy’s elite SEAL teams: “Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.”  No matter the size of your organization, you interact with others every day.  Being a team player is a vital part of your organization’s success.  Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas and practicing humility will help you be a more effective leader. 

Being appreciative and saying ‘thank you’ to mentors, colleagues, and customers keeps leaders humble, appreciated and well received. Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success.

Listen and be responsive

One of the most frustrating behaviors in poor leaders is the tendency to talk too much and act like know-it-alls. This is usually the result of being victims of their own destructive personalities. They don’t listen, and that deafness makes it hard for new ideas to be debated and existing ones to be improved. No single person, no matter how smart, can take a business to its full potential. For that, you need every voice to be heard.

Charles Swindoll authored the well-known line, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” Effective leaders are responsive to their customers, employees, prospects and stakeholders. Whether the communication is e-mail, voicemail, face-to-face or text, responding shows you care and gives your people and customers a voice, allowing them to make positive impacts on the organization.

The other element in our reaction is speed. There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one in which we live today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges, and nimble enough to move at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable.

Instill self-confidence

Another critical part of the leader’s job is to instill self-confidence in their people. It’s the lifeblood of success. When employees lack self-confidence, they cower, they plod along and they spread negativity in the workplace. You cannot unleash the creative power of individuals who doubt themselves. When people have self-confidence, they’re bold. They try new things, offer new ideas, exude positive energy and cooperate with colleagues instead of secretly attempting to bring them down.

Leaders can never stop pouring self-confidence into their teams. That doesn’t mean you should blindly exalt your employees. People know when they’re being gamed.   Make sure goals are challenging but achievable. Give positive feedback. Catch your people doing something right!

That being said, lacking the guts to differentiate when it comes to assessing the performance of your people is one of the most damaging mistakes you can make. Lack of willingness to deliver candid, rigorous performance reviews means every employee receives the same kind of bland, soft, ‘nice job’ feedback. Then when it’s time to dole out rewards, star performers receive little more than laggards. Sprinkling resources like cheese on a pizza — a little bit all over — is the result. You can call this equitable approach kind or fair, as poor leaders often do, but it’s really just weakness. When it comes to building a thriving organization where people have the chance to grow and succeed, the rock stars won’t stand for it. They’ll leave and work for leaders who appreciate them.

Exhibit integrity

Finally, live and breathe your values. Honor the company’s culture of integrity. Obey the law in both letter and spirit. When this translates into letting go of a top performing employee who is a brute to his colleagues, or not promoting a star who doesn’t share her best strategies with the rest of the team, it takes courage to stand your ground.

You can’t simply care about the numbers or the results. You have to care about HOW they came to be. Were the right behaviors practiced? Were people taken care of properly?

Companies love to talk about values. They love to hang them up on plaques in lobbies and tout them to customers and potential employees, but they’re meaningless if you don’t live them. Employees are always watching, always listening. They hear the words. They hear you say that we will behave and make decisions in a certain way, and they carefully weigh the words against the reality they see in how customers and employees are treated, how decisions are made and what is really important. When the actions don’t match the talk, the real values are clear. Leadership loses its integrity. You cannot realistically expect employees to model values that their leaders openly refuse to accept.

When you nail your results, make sure you can report back to an audience of employees, customers and stakeholders: “We did this the right way, according to our values.”

When you win, by your team or department achieving a goal — celebrate! Work is too much a part of life not to recognize the moments of achievement. Celebrating makes people feel like winners (see building self-confidence) and builds an atmosphere of recognition and positive energy.

Grab as many moments for celebration as you can. Make a big deal out of them. That’s part of a leader’s job, too — the fun part. Then take a moment to sit back and listen to the sweet, powerful ‘one sound’ of business success.

Tom Cline has a 28-year background in sales, marketing and operations. He is currently a business development advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA) where he works closely with business owners and their key management staff as both a business consultant and an executive coach. To learn more about VMA's services and programs visit www.Violand.com or call (330) 966-0700.

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