INTRODUCTION Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School, where she is also the director of the Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business. She is the author of Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces and Organizations Buzz with Energy—and Others Don’t (Berrett- Koehler, 2007) and The Democratic Enterprise: Liberating Your Business with Freedom, Flexibility, and Commitment (Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2004). She discusses- Four Ways to Encourage More Productive Teamwork
INTRODUCTION In today’s densely interconnected workplaces, working with others—closely, creatively, globally, and productively—drives organizational and personal effectiveness . Employees work in teams formed to tackle particular projects. They work in virtual teams with colleagues, suppliers, clients, and even competitors they never actually meet. They work in ad hoc combinations , in groups that emerge naturally around the coffee machine or in the corridor. Whatever the provenance and profile of the multiple teams in your workplace, your organization depends on them. During the past five years, I have examined collaborative working practices and what I call the cooperative mindset in companies such as Nokia, Linux, Goldman Sachs, and British Petroleum (BP). I have found that while almost all managers and the companies they work for recognize teamwork’s critical value and the importance of cultivating a cooperative mindset, many actually encourage behaviors that undermine cooperation.
INTRODUCTION Take Peter and his organization, a large company that manufactures and services high-technology equipment. Peter spoke in very positive terms about cooperation and directed my attention to this section of his organization’s value statement: “Teamwork is crucial to the performance of this company.” Peter was confident that I would find that the company abounded with cooperation. Yet it did not. Why? Senior team members, including Peter, were aggressive, even openly hostile, toward one another.
PARADOX? Looking more closely at the company, I discovered that despite the corporate rhetoric of cooperation and teamwork, unwritten rules encouraged people to outshine everyone around them. Rather than sharing ideas and know-how, people hoarded knowledge and worked with others as little as possible. Within weeks of joining the company, new hires learned to talk up cooperation while acting competitively. In this company, as in others I studied, a gap exists between the rhetoric of creative cooperation and the reality of unproductive competition . How can companies close this gap? My research uncovered four crucial practices that foster a culture of cooperation.
Companies in which a cooperative mindset flourishes take particular care in their hiring practices . They seek to attract cooperative people and discourage highly competitive and individualistic people. This dual focus is played out with great sophistication at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. In a hiring process that is legion across business school campuses, candidates interview with as many as 60 senior members of the firm. Rejection by just one scuttles an interviewee’s candidacy. The interviews are clearly not about intelligence or focus; GMAT scores and university grades attest to these traits. The interviews are purely and simply about whether the candidate’s talent, drive, and ambition are married to a willingness to work collaboratively with others . There will be some candidates who are ambitious and hardworking and prefer to work as individual stars, and there will be others who are ambitious and hardworking and prefer to work collaboratively with others. 1. HIRE FOR COOPERATION
The former are politely told to apply to other investment banks. The lengthy interview process has the additional benefit of creating an instant network for successful candidates. On their first day of work, they have already spent a considerable amount of time with a sizable number of senior partners. As a well-established and highly profitable company, Goldman Sachs has the resources to engage in multiple interviews and discussions. But what about companies with more limited resources? To hire for collaboration, every company can implement these practices: Review the competencies used to judge candidates . Do they include a proven ability to work in teams, deal with conflict, and share knowledge? If they don’t, it’s likely that you are screening out people who are most capable of working collaboratively. Ensure that those involved in the hiring process are themselves collaborative people. 1. HIRE FOR COOPERATION
Research has shown that even seemingly objective managers are likely to recruit candidates in their own image. So if you want collaborative people to be hired, put collaborative people in charge of hiring. In the interview, present real-life work scenarios to candidates and ask them how they would respond. Their responses can provide invaluable insight into how collaboratively they work.
2. INSTITUTE ONBOARDING PRACTICES THAT FOSTER COLLABORATION When a person joins a company, she brings to her new position her personality, attitude, and behaviors. This is why hiring for cooperation is crucial. But cooperation and competitiveness exist on a continuum; few of us are wholly cooperative or wholly competitive. Depending on our environment, we play up or play down our natural tendencies to cooperate . If a generally collaborative person finds herself in a highly competitive working environment, then she is likely to refrain from this way of working and to exaggerate the more competitive elements within her broad working style. In the first few weeks after starting a new job or joining a new company, employees are particularly sensitive to the cultural and behavioral norms around them: how their new colleagues dress, how they behave, what they talk about, and so on. For this reason, implement onboarding procedures that emphasize the value of collaboration and establish new employees in the networks through which they will get much of their work done.
2. INSTITUTE ONBOARDING PRACTICES THAT FOSTER COLLABORATION In a newcomer’s first days and weeks on the job at the Finnish mobile phone company Nokia, for instance, his supervisor formally introduces him to at least six members of their team. This is more than simply a handshake and a three-minute chat. Newcomers are encouraged to talk in depth about their background, work habits, and competencies, and to ask their new colleagues about their Own. But the introductions do not stop there. At Nokia, it is understood that while collaborating within the team is important, collaborating with colleagues outside the team is even more crucial; indeed, Nokia sees cross-boundary collaboration as a key driver of innovation . So the supervisor also commits to introducing the newcomer to six people outside their team. Connecting each newcomer with at least 12 colleagues has two important effects on the emergence of a cooperative mindset.
It promotes the development of critical working relationships and the trust that will feed them. It encourages people to cooperate both with their immediate colleagues and with those beyond their immediate team. Within just weeks of joining Nokia or starting a new role there, people become part of a rich network that extends beyond their group. To determine what your organization can do in its onboarding process to encourage collaboration: Think hard about the newcomer’s first weeks on the job. Whom should she meet, and what networks should she be connected to? Charge someone—most likely her supervisor or a close colleague—with the responsibility of helping her establish relationships with the key people with whom she’ll be collaborating. As newcomers acclimatize to the workplace, they will adjust their behaviors to fit in with what they see around them. If a new hire will be expected to work collaboratively, make sure that those most responsible for onboarding that person demonstrate cooperativeness .
3. SUPPORT MENTORING Of all the human resources practices I studied, the one most strongly associated with highly cooperative people and teams was the experience of being mentored. Mentoring was most powerful under three circumstances: (1) when both parties to the mentoring relationship volunteer for it, (2) when the mentor is skilled in active listening, and (3) when senior executives are mentors and thus stand as powerful role models for the rest of the organization. To make mentoring an important driver of cooperation in your company: Promote mentoring and train people to be good mentors, but make participation of both parties in a mentoring relationship voluntary. My research found no evidence that formal mentoring programs in which the mentor and the protégé are formally assigned to each other help foster a culture of cooperation. Encourage senior executives to mentor less experienced members of their team and, indeed, members of other teams. This sends out a strong message that this is a capability that is valued in the organization.
4. ENSURE THAT PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT REWARDS COLLABORATION Nothing pits colleague against colleague more than a performance-management process that rewards only individual accomplishments and ignores collaboration. Conversely, a process that recognizes and rewards collaboration can powerfully reinforce a culture of cooperation. For performance management to foster a culture of cooperation, the process has to be collaborative itself and measure collaborative behavior.
4. ENSURE THAT PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT REWARDS COLLABORATION An example is BP’s Peer Challenge program, whose underlying philosophy is that performance is increased when executives and managers actively learn from collaborating with one another. BP’s more than 100 business units are divided into groups of about 12. The business-unit heads in each group meet to discuss how they did in the previous assessment period. Those who excelled at meeting a particular target share with their peers what policies or actions allowed the unit to reach or exceed the goal. They then begin coaching conversations with colleagues in the group who struggled to meet the same target. Rather than creating a vertical boss-subordinate conversation about performance, the BP process promotes peer-to-peer collaborative conversations that are so crucial to real learning and performance improvement . The peer-to-peer conversations that take place at the business-unit level also are cascaded down the company. In aiming to meet their own performance targets, employees throughout the units are encouraged to turn to their peers in other business units.
Called Peer Assist, this process encourages and trains people to actively collaborate in supporting others’ performance. Introduced by Lord Browne, BP’s former CEO, the Peer Assist program is so deeply embedded in BP’s culture that managers and employees throughout the company devote considerable time and energy to helping colleagues who contact them for guidance. Finally, the business-unit heads in each peer group look to the future. Together, they develop a set of performance goals for each business unit, which the business-unit head then takes to his own boss for approval.
At the end of the following assessment period, each business unit is measured not only on its own performance but also that of the other units in its peer group. What does this accomplish? Group accountability. Just as performance management happens within a collaborative context at BP, so do decisions about rewards. A significant proportion of each business-unit head’s bonus depends on the performance of the other business units in her peer group.
To assess how well your company’s performance management process encourages collaboration, ask yourself: Does the performance management process allow peers to discuss performance and learn from one another, or is it solely a one-to-one, hierarchical process, in which a manager or executive assesses the performance of his subordinate? What follow-up is built into the process? Is this follow-up collaborative in nature? What proportion of recognition and reward is doled out for individual accomplishment or individual unit accomplishment, and what proportion is given over to recognizing and rewarding intra-unit team effort and cross-unit collaboration? None of these practices is an instant fix. But used together, they can turn the ideal of productive and creative collaboration into a reality. Source: search.ebscohost.com