Sunday, May 9, 2004

Build winning team through delegating

John Eckberg

Michael Jordan had a ready reply when Chicago Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter pointed out that there was no "I" in "T-E-A-M."

"Well," Jordan replied, "there's one in WIN."

It's a clever rejoinder, recounted in the book Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam. The basketball great points out one of the great challenges facing mid-level managers these days. It speaks, too, to the essence of delegation and team and personal responsibility for projects and efforts at companies.

How does one delegate duties to individuals and teams but still maintain a balance between group and individual responsibilities and rewards within the team setting?

Author Tasos Sioukas explores the dynamics of workplace delegation in his new book The Solution Path (Jossey-Bass; $19.95).

How important is teamwork today?

Four of five companies with more than 100 employees use teams to solve problems, provide services and develop and create products, according to the Journal of Management.

You can bet that the 20 percent of the companies that don't use a team-based approach spurn the strategy because it's simply too difficult to figure out accountability for failures.

Sioukas, considered an expert on group work, has advised Bank of America, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Sempra Energy.

He says teams almost always go through four phases: forming, when people think anything is possible and storming, when a talent or motivation shortfall becomes evident.

Norms is when expectations of team behavior become evident. Finally groups hit the stage of performance, when what is expected to occur actually does or does not occur.

He advises companies that there are also at least four components of delegation, whether it's to individuals or teams.

• Treat people like they can and will meet with success. "If you act like they will come through, you'll find that they will come through," he said last week in a telephone conversation.

• Make team members feel responsible for the task at hand. "You have to allow a person to feel enthusiastic."

• Do not allow team leaders to bring a report but no decision back to your desk. If you end up making the decision, what was the point of the team approach? asked Sioukas.

• Treat each person according to his skill, style of learning and motivation. If they don't have the skill set, help them get it with training. About 75 percent of the people in business operate based on data and information. One in four relies on intuition.

But motivation is another matter and one of the most critical components of all group and individual efforts.

That is, while there may not be an "I" in team, there is a "me" in there, as in what's-in-it-for-me?

Money has long been a great motivator and is likely to be a great motivator for decades to come.

"Find out, too, how much room you have to provide incentive," Sioukas says.

"That will depend on each specific organization and budget. At least provide feedback and praise."

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