I was recently at my son’s soccer game, and his coach had them play against one of the top teams in the state. Now, this was a group of 12-13 year-old boys, and they looked like a professional team out there. Their verbal communication was clear and concise. They played as though there was no one else on the field. They always had players just where they needed to be and were ready to take any opportunity to make a play on goal and defend their own. You could tell why they were the best. It was evident that they not only took the time to practice often, but all had mutual respect for both their teammates and their coach. I had a realization in the moment that this regular ole boy’s soccer game really resonates with the similarity of how leaders must optimize the teams within their organization. Playing to their strengths and communicating their weaknesses allows for growth and their end ‘goal’ of success.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
We’ve all heard that saying, right? “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
It sounds silly. But in reality, it’s very true. Without trust, cooperation, and understanding from the top of your organization to the frontline, your organization just wouldn’t flourish. Your people wouldn’t grow. They wouldn’t feel valued in a culture where teamwork was significantly lacking, and your organization’s mission and goals were never reflected by leadership. Your employees want to be able to come to work each day and play to their strengths. Most appreciate constructive criticism for ways to improve, but they truly want to be placed in a position that makes all of those strengths shine.
Recognizing What Needs Improvement
Now, that doesn’t mean your employees won’t want to be challenged, but tough situations are a little easier when you have a strong team amidst you. The harsh reality is that great teamwork doesn’t happen overnight. Much like my story above, it requires mutual respect and ‘practice.’ Sure, there may be some leaders or employees whose personalities click, and they can work harmoniously very quickly. But that’s a fairly high expectation. It will take some work alongside a lot of observation (and, of course, listening!) from you and your fellow leaders within the organization to see these areas still need improvement. But listening alone is no longer enough.
Listening is critical. However, in today’s workplace, and building a culture of listening is imperative if you want your employees to feel like their voice matters. Employees feel energized when they have hope that their ideas will be acted upon, even just some of the time. Especially when collaborating in a team environment. And when leaders actively listen to those they lead—at the individual and team level, and through organizational surveys, focus groups, and culture teams—employees feel heard, respected, and valued. This all goes back to a culture that creates trust, which in turn will improve team performance and empower organizations to be more agile, creative, and successful.
But, to create a culture of listening where teamwork is the star player, you must have buy-in from the very top.
My kids have taught me many valuable leadership lessons over the years. Everything from the importance of valuable teamwork, to empathy, to learning how to listen with the intent to hear what they say and not just waiting to respond. The use of teams in the workplace is intended to foster sharing and debate about ideas and alternative solutions. Just like the soccer game, strong listening skills help your people perform better by showing support for others when they speak, along with a better understanding of the ideas they share. This improves team chemistry. Good listening skills are sometimes an afterthought compared to the ability to share ideas, but are equally important. In short, fostering teamwork amongst a successful listening culture will improve your organization for everyone and your team’s performance!