Often a reference is made to “winning an argument.” But the truth is, no one wants to lose in an argument, so instead of truly winning, an argument generally puts distance between people. You can walk away feeling superior, but it isn’t a win in an organization if anyone walks away feeling like a loser, or unappreciated. Competition has much the same result. Someone gets to walk away feeling like a winner, but everyone else feels they lost. That doesn’t strengthen your company or team. It divides it.
What approach your people take will be determined in great part by the way you lead. Over the decades, many leaders managed to have successful organizations while pitting their people against each other, but few people were happy in those environments. In a time when unemployment is only a step or two away from 0%, you don’t want unhappy people. You want to give them every reason to love what they do, where they work, and the people that lead them.
To accomplish a cooperative culture, there are several things you should encourage. If you don’t have this situation already, the change needs to begin with your behavior and the programs you implement now. These should focus on including others in every phase of what your company does. No, not just as workers, but as planners, idea generators, and more. Here are a few ideas to start with:
Even as you begin this new way of doing things, take your desire to your people and ask for their ideas on how to best move in that direction. What do they believe will help them in the transition? Do they have past experiences they can share to help everyone move forward? How do they think it will help the impact of the company, make their individual efforts more meaningful, or something else?
Listen to the Answers and Comments:
Listen and incorporate as many ideas as you can. Let the people who present their ideas take charge in some cases and give them a team to help. Make it possible and easy for them to have success as they do so, and give credit for all efforts and successes. Build confidence in people as they take on tasks and improve the company. When ideas don’t work, have a meeting to find out what was learned and what positive messages were gained. Sometimes the greatest successes only come out of seemingly unsuccessful prior attempts. Nothing is a failure, there is always a lesson to be learned. When your people know that is the outlook, then real forward progress can begin.
Create a helping attitude and environment for people. Sometimes one team may be very busy and another in idea-generating mode. Let the teams mix and help each other. Sometimes rote work can help the brain process and develop ideas and creations, so helping the other team in simple tasks so they can focus on their areas of specialization gives both groups a boost. But if people are conditioned to believe that some tasks are beneath their corporate level, that can’t happen. As the leader, that means you need to roll up your sleeves and get into the fray now and then. If you need to answer the phones at the reception desk for an hour or two each month, you’ll have given a solid message across your company. It may not seem like it’s a good use of your time, and it may not be, but only you will know if it has a lasting impact for good.