Issue 77

Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor
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“Someday is not a day of the week.”   –traditional proverb

“Fortune favors the bold.”  —
(“Fortis fortuna adiuvat,” from The Aeneid by Virgil; first century BC)

“We must be willing to change our plans, because plans at their very best are but guesses about the future.   The future may come wrapped in a package that we do not expect.”  -–Gene Griessman

“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong—but that is the best way to bet.” –Damon Runyon, (fiction writer and journalist; author of Guys and Dolls;  1880-1946)

“All the world can be our university, and a museum one of its classrooms.”   –Gene Griessman (from a presentation at the National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg, PA, October 1, 2010)

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”  –Emily Post (author of Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, at Home)

“Dismount if a horse has taken you as far as it’s capable of going.  Only riders made of marble or bronze never need to change horses.” –Gene Griessman

“Fatigue is the best pillow.” –Hindu proverb

Question: “What’s the best way to get more teamwork in my organization?   Should I hire somebody to teach team- building?”

Answer:  Presentations on team-building can be entertaining and inspiring.   And they may sensitize your people to look for ways to work as a team.   Your people may learn some effective teamwork techniques.

But if you want to see permanent change, you must focus on ways to make the system reward team effort.  To be blunt, you may waste a lot of time and money preaching teamwork if all that your organization rewards is individual effort.

Your people may engage in delightful little games or do wilderness exercises, but if the system does not reinforce group effort, there probably will be little lasting impact on the way work actually gets done.  In order to achieve lasting change, executives must do what W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality movement, emphasized constantly.  You must make your system work.

If your system provides really significant rewards for teamwork, you will be up against one of the most powerful forces in Western culture: individualism.  Most Western organizations do not confer their very best rewards on teams.  Even when teams are honored and rewarded, typically the highest rewards go to record-breakers, All-Americans, superstars, top-producers.

Let me illustrate.  Several years ago I was invited to the annual president’s club of a big electronics company.   The attendee list was highly selective—only the company’s very top sales producers received invitations.  Those fortunate few were entertained lavishly at a posh resort in Hawaii.

There’s a script that is usually followed at events like these. The highlight of the week is awards night.  At this awards ceremony, when the top producer was announced, he made a little speech:  “I deeply appreciate this honor, but the person who really deserves it is Susan, my admin, who stays on top of things and keeps me out of trouble, and Mike, my tech support.”

I asked an executive if Susan and Mike were present.  He seemed surprised that I would ask such a ridiculous question: “Of course not.  They’re back home.”

It shouldn’t take a genius to see that that picture was off-center.

Conclusion:  If you want significant teamwork, you must reward teamwork.  Some organizations do this regularly and effectively.  They do it by making sure that the system recognizes, honors, and reinforces outstanding team effort.

One example I know of is the J. W. Award of Excellence that Marriott Hotels gives to 12 employees each year.  For each recipient, the trip to Washington and the prestigious awards ceremony begins with nominations from co-workers.  This is an award that you get by helping somebody on your team.

(If you know of another organization that does this, or if yours does, let us know so that we can update this section when it is posted on the Internet.)

“Look for something that you can improve every day, beginning with yourself. But do not stop there.  Look for some way to make your world better.

Plant a flower, support a worthy cause, right a wrong, conduct a scientific experiment, make your business run more efficiently, compose a song, cure a disease, start a philanthropy, teach a child to read.  Leave the world a better place than you found it.

–Adapted from Lincoln Speaks to Leaders by Gene Griessman, Pat Williams, and Peggy Matthews Rose.

“I enjoyed the entire presentation—you captivate an audience in an effortless way!  Your presentation today—your style and the manner in which you share information takes me back to one of my happiest times in life—being a college student and learning from experienced professors.”  –unsigned feedback form

“It was all great.  You brought Lincoln to life as a real human being.  Moving!  Beautiful!”  –unsigned feedback form