3.great profits

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3.great profits

  1. 1. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0888-045X.htm RETURNS AND INVESTMENTS Great profits from great teams Great profits from great teams Terry Cottrell University of St Francis, Joliet, Illinois, USA 221Abstract Received 1 October 2011Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explicate the universal theme of teamwork within Accepted 3 October 2011organizations as a performance factor toward effective and efficient library cost savings and long-termgroup success.Design/methodology/approach – Focusing on lessons from the past, along with current researchand experience, library managers can gain insight into tried and true actions increasing the potentialfor team success essential for smooth operations.Findings – A multitude of elements contribute to effective team management. The cultivation ofcreativity, the resolution and anticipation of conflict, the blending of physical and virtual interactionand a focus on external environments are key.Originality/value – This paper provides a comparison of current team dynamics with those of thepast to show that merely the context of good team management has changed while the core goal oflibrary team management has remained.Keywords Teams, Groups, Conflict, Communication, External environment, Management, LibrariesPaper type ViewpointTeamwork is the targetThe epic Gilgamesh, one of the world’s first written stories, is careful to outline thebenefits of using teamwork toward specific goals as a foundational testament tohuman achievement. Ancient stories are richly peppered with examples of the virtue ofusing teamwork toward conquering evil, forging new nations, saving innocents andestablishing legacies. From Aeneas leaving his burning city of Troy to found Romewith the help of his loyal Trojans to Alexander’s renowned Companion Cavalryspreading Greek culture as far as India, working together was a central theme ofancient Western culture. In libraries, epic quests can be seen in the acquisition andmigration to new CRM systems, the restructuring of departments, and the writing ofgrants for new services and offerings that aim to support the basis for services far intothe future. The scenarios of struggling for glory in ancient myths compared to presentrealities are similar when considering finances and team. The spoils of war in theancient world always included land, other assets and (not least) currency. The librarymanager of today wins the spoils of budgetary funding through skills developed frombattles in the boardrooms. Without the development, reward and retention offunctional and flexible teams, however, the library manager is doomed before thejourney begins.Cultivating creativity The Bottom Line: Managing LibraryWho creates a good team? What is the product of good teamwork and implementation? Finances Vol. 24 No. 4, 2011An effective manager realizes that not only mastering the totality of the collaboration pp. 221-226 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0888-045XSpecial thanks to Michael LeFlem. DOI 10.1108/08880451111193316
  2. 2. BL environment is essential for effective team implementation, but also understanding the24,4 individual players on the team is a requirement for success. The creativity born from adding additional minds to the managerial mix is where new revenue streams, innovative services, and cost savings ultimately begin. Picking the right staff to serve on anything from special taskforces to standing committees is a skill that gives innumerable rewards. Failure in this regard hurts morale, and hurts the bottom line as222 reprimands are given, roles are rearranged, and possible terminations are required. Time spent correcting legacy team member selection mistakes takes away from team potential for creativity and innovation. Teams are constructed today through a complex web of job origination, task approval, recruiting, interviewing, testing, background-checking, employing and subsequent positioning within larger managerial structures. If possible, current employees can be consulted during the selection process (at hiring or afterward), as they are the individuals who will have to interact with new members of the team much more than managers. Similarly, they will respect a responsible, considerate manager more for heeding their advice and consulting them before the team receives new additions. This collaboration brings team management, composition and eventual project execution full circle by strengthening crucial bonds of trust that are essential to the smooth operation of any professional environment. The smooth operation of a good team brings both efficiency and creativity. At this time in library management, the goal of creativity and innovation is paramount as justification for organizational expenditures in libraries is needed over and above other areas that produce a clearer revenue stream. The proper mix of players on the team will produce positive results beyond a manager’s expectations if team members can constructively plan and create goals for themselves striving in the same direction achieving one accomplishment at a time. The teamwork environment of today: physical or virtual? As communications technology continues to answer its long promise of brining many voices from many distances together, managers and leaders are faced with new decisions about how their teams will function and thrive. One popular subject is the desire to save dollars through the use of virtual communications tools. Team members working together, while not being together physically, fall under the popular moniker of “virtual teams.” Current research is seeking to maximize the effectiveness of individual members within virtual teams in order to better assess the sometimes high outlay in mental and financial capital required to train and maintain virtual team members. Many managers, however, do not have the time to debate these micro level concerns. Projects need completion before research can be done, and the options brought by virtual communication are too tempting to not try before vetting thorough research. It is important to remember that there are significant differences between virtual and face-to-face teams. As organizations move deeper into the twenty-first century, the pressure for collaborators previously working with each other in live environments to simply transition full throttle into the virtual world is increasing. Even with all the high tech tools for virtual communication, no one tool is anywhere near close to the richness of face-to-face interaction. Librarians are known amongst each other as purveyors of every new technological collaboration tool known to exist. How is it then
  3. 3. that the library manager can identify which aspects of these virtual environment tools Great profitstruly help build good teamwork? The centering of teams on specific, pragmatic tasks from great teamsstrongly helps members succeed as they focus intently on shared goals (Thompson,2011). In the face-to-face realm, keeping a group focused takes a completely differentset of strategies targeting a distinct group of challenges. Five elements for great virtual team collaboration include: (1) Patience and understanding that virtual engagement involves the internet, and 223 the internet means distractions that are difficult for participants and managers to detect and deflect. (2) Persistence that the financial benefits of working through the challenges of virtual teamwork are worth the time and effort. (3) Tracking and recording to ensure that if key elements are missed or needed for reference, they can be retrieved for maximum chance of dissemination and retention in the future. (4) Ease of access and equality in disclosure of essential information in a timely fashion to all members needing to know. (5) Shared sense of ownership toward all aspects of the product of the group’s collaborative efforts.Conflict in teamsConflict in an unavoidable part of team environment, but do team members know thisgoing into their jobs each day? To ignore this dynamic through wishful thinking orwillfully imposed ignorance is to court problems down the line. Sometimes, however,people forget. Though even the most efficient work force will find itself in gridlockfrom time to time, there are predictable, reliably effective measures by which amanager can both forestall and resolve potential conflicts within teams. Leadersseeking to save time, energy and money through avoiding team conflict can discusscommon pressure points early and often as a way of wise preemptive management. Some places to look for potential team conflicts are: . intimidation from other members in the group during group functions; . conflicts in individual passions over mission, direction and vision; . past conflicts yet resolved; . avoidance of complex and/or difficult issues while the team is together; . splintering of activities between parts of the team without prior knowledge or consent; and . silence from members who are afraid to voice concerns openly.Each of the aforementioned is a starting point where managers can envision how muchtime and effort (translating into dollars expended) is being used on disconnected teams(Lencioni, 2006). The primary drive on the part of the fiscally responsible leader iskeeping one’s mind centered on conflict points, such as these, as the basis ofcommunication to team members. One way to communicate conflict points like the aforementioned is through largegroup meetings and/or retreats where some aspect of play is encouraged around
  4. 4. BL difficult subjects using motivational games and prizes. The use of play will reduce the24,4 instinct to not trust. In order to eventually convince disparate team members to work in unison, honesty is required. Anonymous opportunities to brainstorm in large group settings are a way to foster this type of candor. If apprehension is detected through attempts at large group play, smaller games can be introduced within subsets of the whole. From here, subset leaders can report on results in the larger group setting to224 initiate more understanding among all members. Trust will flow when members are comfortable and eventually given the opportunity to stake claims to certain goals or beliefs previously shared anonymously or in small subset groups. A sense of trustworthiness will grow when individuals eventually reveal themselves fully showing what they truly bring to the team through their personality as well as their skill set (Thompson, 2011). Another option for mediating conflict and opening lines of communication is through the use of online social networking tools for members in diffuse locations. The interface between members is not the same as the face-to-face environment, but this does not mean it is less authentic. Some team members will feel this method of communication is less personal – especially for resolving conflict. It is important to emphasize, however, that some members will be more honest in this virtual environment than they are when they are with their peers. Individual expression comes from more than the audible voice alone. Offering this method combined with face-to-face interaction may be a best practice for encouraging members to get to know others and let they themselves be known. Ultimately, team cohesion will not occur without members having a joint sense of what it is to know and understand one another. As with communicating openly about conflict, an often overlooked part of hiring and team composition is complementary personality matching on the part of the manager. Being aware of reflections of personality types seen through applicant resume construction, cover letter composition, and non-verbal communication during face-to-face meetings is critical to ensuring a comfortable and productive work environment (Kroeger et al., 2002). It also ushers in a low rate of turnover as a display of financial savvy as time is not being spent on team management and potential termination and rehiring. Loyalty in teams is hard to acquire as well, and responsible managers screening for potentially uncommitted employees who might be attempting to join the staff for purely individual reasons adds to long term member retention. While jobs are in short supply in this economy, managers can anticipate more applicants looking for something much less involved than what a good library team requires. Dealing with a changing external environment Things change, and leaders continually express this fact to their team members. In libraries, change has been a going theme since the advent of the world wide web. Still, as a way to save money and improve performance, managers search to more fully understand externalities before they impact their organizations. An honest approach, however, is the admonition that there are externalities facing libraries which are both unknown and misunderstood. Increasingly seen are advanced technologies, transient fads, and capricious cultural tastes showing that no matter how well established an operation is run, teams will be faced with patrons who demand the unreasonable and
  5. 5. products that promise more than they deliver. While there is no simple answer to the Great profitsproblem of bending a service team’s sense of comfort and actual production abilities to from great teamsthose of patrons, a few important points are to be considered when examining thepressures of external environmental change. First, there are successful aspects of every good team no matter what the change inenvironment brings. A big external change rarely negates the entire focus of a team’sdirection. Successful teams are not only successful because of the productivity they 225bring, but also because of their synergy and adaptability. It is important to stress thisunderstanding upon team members as a way to continue existing team cohesionduring times of change. Second, the confidence groups of individuals display duringtheir initial setup is what will carry them through challenges as they modify their workethic to meet new tasks. In libraries, this confidence has been seen time and time againin the team’s understanding that they provide great instructional methodologies forretrieving and interpreting information. It is only the format types, or the containers, inwhich information is held that have changed throughout the world. A cool approach tochange displayed by the library leader, will be reflected by subordinate team membersleading to increased rates of success (Kroeger et al., 2002). This approach is bolsteredby a shared sense that what is changing on the outside might be major, but throughteamwork, adapting to the major change can be completed by the careful execution ofminor changes that do not fundamentally alter original successful internal structures.Thirdly, often the external environment is not always lasting or indicative of long-termparadigm shift. Especially when dealing with technological change, distinctiveplatforms emerge and disappear quickly. As time is the most valuable asset of anyorganization, it is best to be sure teams do not invest too much of their intellectualcapital and efforts on “x” name technological tool, or “y” name competitor. There is acore to what library teams bring to any larger community, and these elements areunique to missions and visions that libraries do not share with other organizations.Patrons visit libraries looking for both information and instruction. In either case, goodteams of employees know how to serve either need independently or jointly. Finally,aesthetics is as important as the amount of revenue or output generated for mostorganizations. Even if funds are saved, and contracts are negotiated ahead of thecompetition, if the team knows this short-term success is at the expense of the corevalues initially agreed upon on, it will slowly chip away at confidence and efficiencycosting much more in the long run.ConclusionIn the end, it is only through the development of a good team that a manager savestime, energy and ultimately, precious money so crucial to library operations. Throughthe annals of history, historic leaders knew little of one-to-many communicationsprotocols for teamwork, or frameworks for interpersonal group dynamics. Or, did they?The human experience throughout time has hinted at the connection of shared profitfor all through carefully selected teams (Mason, 2003). Leaders of today know theteamwork mantra. They have sat through the requisite collegiate classes, attended theorganizationally-sponsored workshops, listened to calls to heed signs from externalenvironments, and read the latest and greatest pop science and anecdotal literature onthis important subject. They are awake to the power of progress via teamwork seenthrough sources current and from the past. The lesson going forward is finding that it
  6. 6. BL is the careful selection of and subsequent communication with the members of the team that lead to all eventual desired returns. The investment is in the time, effort, research,24,4 vetting and courting of the right individuals – their talents and traits – for the tasks at hand. After this, comes the continual “selling” of the vision of where the library is going and how together the team can make the vision a reality.226 References Kroeger, O., Rutledge, H. and &Thuesen, J.M. (2002), Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job, Dell Publishing, New York, NY. Lencioni, P.M. (2006), The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA. Mason, H. (Ed.) (2003), Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, NY. Thompson, L.L. (2011), Making the Team: A Guide for Managers, 4th ed., Pearson, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Corresponding author Terry Cottrell can be contacted at: tcottrell@stfrancis.edu To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.com Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints

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