Can We Expand The Definition of Teamwork?

Published: August 1, 2010

Welcome back to the Team Clock Institute's monthly newsletter. Each month, Breakthrough Teams will invite readers to participate in an Ask/Apply/Act model: Ask: this month's team challenge Apply: example story Act: action steps for consideration

ASK : “Can we expand the definition of teamwork to include the way we partner with our environment in the workplace?”

APPLY : The Mayor’s Caucus in Chicago is actively involved in sustainability. At first glance, they sponsor facilities with natural plantings, renewable materials, low VOC paints/adhesives and energy efficient lighting creating bright, open, energized space for collaboration and communication. Actually, their concerns extend far beyond facilities. The Chicago Mayor’s Caucus assists workplaces to create cultures that empower stewardship and wellness where employees are seen as assets rather than costs. Healthy buildings are simply the natural consequence of these cultures.

Any time you make an investment in your human capital, you expect a return on your investment. When ROI is measurable, it’s easy to justify the investment. Some ROI, however, is difficult to measure. Employee satisfaction, for instance, is a challenging variable to tie to a business metric. Many assume that happy employees are more productive employees. The literature, however, doesn’t always support this notion. Employee satisfaction has also been tied to lack of productivity as workers become lulled into a comfort zone and fail to push for change. Looking across a spectrum of industries, one of the common diagnostic discoveries of the Team Clock Institute assessment process is over-satisfaction with comfort and cohesion. Although employees are happy, they take no risks. Happiness gets equated with safety. From a productivity perspective, conflict, tension and adversity are important ingredients. You have to sacrifice some happiness to invite the pain of growth.

ACT : I have been involved in two green initiatives in the past decade: Leaders Bank’s Clean Air Counts Platinum Award in 2008 in Oak Brook, IL and Advocate Lutheran General Hospital’s LEED certified bed tower completed in 2009 in Park Ridge, IL. In both experiences, employee teams expressed mixed feelings about the endeavors. Most of the skepticism revolved around the degree of investment required when the reward was either hard to measure, too far in the future, or not tangible.
One of the foundation tenets of the Team Clock model is that creativity and innovation are not possible without a solid foundation of investment in a common direction and the evolution of trust and accountability. Accordingly, these teams forged ahead with transparent communication, participative engagement and employees who thought and acted like owners. The result was a mutual commitment to a healthy workplace – not just to the space, but to the team of people who created the culture of stewardship and wellness.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.