The Problem with Teamwork

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Surely you have heard the phrase, "Teamwork makes the dream work." That saying can be seen on coffee cups and motivational posters across the globe. The problem is: What happens if the team doesn't work together?


A Failure to Communicate

It can be said that all business problems are really people problems in disguise. Those people problems arise from a common issue: communication issues. We either communicate poorly (not enough information), miscommunicate (we didn't have the right information but passed it along anyway), or there is no communication (we assume they know). All three are a recipe for disaster in your restaurant and bar.

Even if you think the communication in your business is good, you can do better. The main issue is usually your primary means to communicate. In today's technology-driven world, our go-to way to communicate is via text message or email.

But effective communication is actually a formula: 7-38-55.

Seven percent of how we communicate is words, 38% is the tone we use when talking, and the final 55% is non-verbal. You see, how you say something really is more important that what you say. If you look back at the evolution of human beings and the brain (over 5 million years in the making), the use of words is a relatively new thing for us.

If your primary means to communicate with your team is words alone in a memo, text, or an email, you are really only being 7% effective. Not a great way to build teamwork and a sense of purpose.


Define What Teamwork Means

Here is the best place to start. Go around the room and ask everyone on your team what teamwork means to them. You might be quite surprised by how different the definitions are. Some may suggest working in harmony. Others may say jumping in without being asked. The problem with teamwork is everyone has their own definition. They also tend to gravitate towards the concepts of: harmony and everyone getting along. Real teamwork is not predicated on liking the people with whom you work – it requires that you trust the people with whom you work.

Teamwork means that people will work cooperatively, using their individual strengths and making adjustments from constructive feedback, despite any personal conflict between individuals. Any time you put people together to work with one another, there with be potential for conflict due to a variety of personalities and experiences.

(Not everyone is a good fit for the team. Disruptive people who cause more damage than they contribute to the brand must be dealt with. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Always protect your brand.)

The question you need to ask and answer for yourself is this: What does teamwork mean to me and my brand? The only real answer is the one you have for your restaurant or bar.


Be A Positive Example

Your next step is to have integrated communication with your team on what teamwork is at your establishment. This evolves three key elements:

  1. Verbal – Yes, you will need to talk about your exact definition of teamwork. Your team needs to hear it straight from you (words and tone) and see that you mean it in your nonverbal cues.
  2. Written – Have the definition of teamwork written down for a reinforcement of what you just said (not a substitution), to hand out after your talk.
  3. Model – This is where most fail. You have to be the example of what you talk about. Trust builds teams, and nothing destroys teams faster than hypocrisy. As the leader, your actions are always an example to your team. You are either an example of what to do or of what not to do. Choose wisely.


Preach It!

Now that you had a talk with your team about what teamwork means to you and your brand, that's it, right? No. You must become a preacher of the words you speak. You must be relentless and obsessed about your message.

Saying it a few times will not get you long-term results. You will need to become like Polly the Parrot and repeat this message over and over and over and over again. Repetition is the mother of learning. When will you know it's working? When they can say the words back to you? No. You know it’s working when you see it every day in their actions. When your team becomes the example of teamwork, then and only then will they have taken ownership of the word “teamwork.”

The problem with teamwork is most don’t know what the word really means. That can be solved by having some honest conversations with yourself and your team. Clarity is powerful.

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