I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been called into an organization to help build a culture of teamwork, only to learn that people are measured, managed, and rewarded around individual performance. If success in your organization is defined exclusively by personal effort and achievement, don’t bother paying lip service to teamwork, collaboration, or culture—just ride your survival of the fittest management style for the short-term gains and get out before the uncaring, unengaged, undead who are left finally turn on you.
If you are serious about seeking the long-term benefits of true teamwork and collaboration, then start with an audit of your measures and rewards. Here’s what you’re looking for…
- Does the way you measure, recognize, or reward performance provide an incentive for people to keep others out of the picture? For example, if you count sales dollars, are people taking the risk to try to close the deal alone rather than have to share the credit with someone else? Your systems might actually make that the smart economic decision. Don’t make a decision that’s bad for your customers and your business good for an individual.
- Do you celebrate the performance of individual stars, rather than winning teams? There is nothing more demoralizing than seeing someone standing alone on a stage accepting a plaque and knowing that someone else in the room who contributed is going unnoticed. If everyone leaves the room thinking about how they can be the one person on the platform next year, you’ve reinforced the lone wolf. Instead, if good teams watch as great teams are rewarded, they’ll see they can win together.
- Do you create silos by measuring leaders only on the performance of their business? If so, they have no incentive to collaborate in the best interest of the customer or the organization. In a drive to create the almighty accountability, many organizations are measuring the performance of a single business so narrowly that sharing resources or passing over a new product idea, a new customer, or a great team member can cause a leader to take a hit on their numbers. You’re dis-incenting teamwork.
If you’re worried about poor collaboration, silos, and a lack of teamwork, take a long hard look at how you measure, recognize, and reward people. You probably won’t have to look far to find the root cause.
Teamwork is hard work. You don’t need to make it any harder by expecting people to work against their own self-interest because of individually focused performance management and compensation systems.