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 Lake@Work Newsletter
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Strategies to Create a Cooperative Work Environment
Posted: March 16, 2011

How does a boss or a leader get people to do more than work or work hard? How does a boss or a leader get people to work hard TOGETHER? Try these six strategies.

  1. Project self-confidence. It is contagious. If you feel good about yourself and believe in yourself, chances are you will get better results from others ... because team members like to work for winners. Indeed, to be an effective leader, you have got to have so much self-confidence that you do not "need" the approval of others. Although it would be nice to have their approval, it is not necessary. Even parents know they can not be effective parents if they are always worried about what their kids think of them or whether or not their kids are happy. The same thing is true in the world of work. You can not be a great leader if you spend too much time trying to win the approval of your teammates. Just remember, the teachers (and bosses) we respected the most were the ones who demanded the most and got the most out of us.
     
  2. Exhibit a "can-do" attitude. When all is said and done, team members want leaders who have a vision and a purpose, and who offer direction while backing it up with lots of passion. They want leaders who will give them an optimistic, "can-do" attitude. Leaders know that the more positive and enthusiastic they are, the more other people tend to get on the bandwagon of working hard TOGETHER. One of former mayor, Rudolph Guiliani’s six principles of leadership is: "Be an optimist. People do not follow pessimists. They follow people who solve problems and who have hope."
     
  3. Stamp out negativity. Nothing demotivates people and destroys teamwork more quickly than negativity. Effective leaders do their best to stamp out any negativity. An astute leader is always on the lookout for progress and improvements, and is always ready to celebrate. Dan Tully of Merrill Lynch does just that. He says, "It is amazing what you can do when you do not seek all the credit. I find nothing is really one person's idea."
     
  4. Help teammates make connections. Most people are a little uncomfortable when it comes to meeting new people, so they tend to sit in the same place next to the same people at every staff meeting. They also tend to talk to the same people in the company cafeteria about the same things. A leader who wants his people to work hard TOGETHER will help them make unexpected connections. He will organize and lead conversations among people who do not normally interact with each other.
  5. Balance praise with challenge. Balancing praise with challenge is one of the best ways to keep people working, working hard, and working together. Effective leaders know they have to be diligent about praising the good results their teams bring about, but they also have to leave room for continual improvement. They have to instill courage and stamina for the tough times ahead. Perhaps you have had an employee tell you that a difficult task has gone well, but you know that he had been worried about it nonetheless. Try this approach to balance out your praise with challenge. Congratulate your teammate on a job well done. Then ask a few questions to uncover the difficulties he encountered along the way. You might start off by saying, "Good job on meeting that deadline. I know that had to be hard. What gave you the most trouble?" Your praise becomes much more meaningful because your teammate knows you understand the complexity of the task. But you are also giving your teammate a chance to expand on his achievement.
     
  6. Recognize the little things. Every once in a while, the world or an organization changes dramatically and quickly. More often than not, however, the world and our organizations change an inch at a time, not miles at a time. As author Edward S. Finkelstein states, "Bigness comes from doing many small things well. Individually, they are not very dramatic transactions. TOGETHER though, they add up."

Article adapted /reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Internet newsletter, the “Tuesday Tip.”

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