Weekly Editorial

Enhancing Your Team's Potential

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • May 1, 2023

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As the world ever-so-slowly works its way back into offices, the profound changes to the workplace have forced managers and space designers to debate the benefits of teamwork vs. the efforts of individuals.

During the pandemic, we certainly learned the limits of working alone. Productivity, which increased initially as workers were sent home, dropped after they got a bit too comfortable in the new work arrangement (and distracted by their barking dog and nagging home improvement projects).

The last few years have certainly proven the importance of teamwork. Still, the return to the office doesn’t mean that when your team returns it will be firing on all cylinders. Tapping into your team’s potential takes a lot of work and the right management.

So how can you get the most out of your team and enhance its potential? Here are a few ideas:

Include them in the decision making process: If you’re the boss, you get the final say. But on matters that affect the entire team, open up the decision making process. Team members want (and deserve) to be heard. Listen to them. The best managers have a way of allowing everyone a voice. And just as important, they have a way of quieting the teammate who inserts themselves into every conversation and lifting up teammates that are quiet or need help expressing their opinions.

Create a culture where failure is allowed, but learning is expected: Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Too many organizations punish — or worse yet — belittle employees who fail. Instead, create a culture where failure can happen as long as everyone learns from what went wrong. Everyone stumbles. Great teams lift each other up when they do.

Hire and promote from within when possible: One of the worst hits employee morale can take is when a team member is inexplicably passed over for a promotion or a new job. Of course there are times when an employee applies for a job that they are not qualified for. Instead of rejecting them off-hand, see if they could be trained or mentored for the position. If they still aren’t the right fit, explain why and sit down with them and create a plan that will help them achieve their professional goals.

Expect employees to grow professionally (and help them do it): Professional development should never end. If there is a class your employee wants to take so they can do their job better, pay for it and let them take it. If there is a professional conference or gathering that can help them grow professionally, send them. And as an employer, set expectations for their professional growth. It is easy to identify a worker that is checked out or isn’t working to their potential.

Work together as a family: My work team is my “other” family. We work hard together, play hard together and succeed and fail together. We celebrate professional and personal achievements together. We morn when a teammate’s grandparent dies and we celebrate when their children earn a place on the basketball team. Though there is a fine line between too much sharing and personal interaction at work, creating teams where the members care about each other on a personal level makes all the difference.

Enhancing your team’s potential takes a lot of work and careful management, but if you’ve ever been part of a work team that is humming with efficiency, you know how powerful that can be to your organization.

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