Not Rivalry Does The Job
Randi S. Brenowitz
article appeared in the San Jose Business Journal 9/27/02,
and in the June 16, 2003 issue of HR.com.
revenue decreases and corporate budgets shrink, employers throughout
the United States are coping with more uncertainty. Forced to
cut staff, they have to find a way to do more with less.
order to enhance productivity during lean times, companies should
take a new look at their problem-solving and decision-making tactics.
Collaboration and teamwork represent two popular trends, but these
generate some resistance from corporate America.
Because of fear, mistrust, and inexperience. This is not a surprise.
The skills essential for effective collaboration are not necessarily
taught in school. Most of those born before the mid-1980s participated
in educational environments that trained them to compete with,
rather than work with, each other.
class work and assignments were done individually. Students were
graded on a bell-shaped curve that allowed for only a small number
of highest grades and the same number of lowest grades. It was
all about being ahead and getting the A's. Those students with
a clear grasp of the course material had no incentive to help
classmates where were struggling. That mindset is fraught with
many schools work toward nurturing a collaborative mindset to
ensure students are well prepared for the complexities of adulthood.
Rather than separating students into divided, competitive units,
students are grouped in semicircles, or "pods," where
they face and work with each other. Students are encouraged to
discuss problems and work as teams on projects. The teacher functions
as a leader, weaving his or her way through the groupings.
corporate leadership, unfortunately, grew up under the old school.
But with effort and determination, business leaders can learn
to foster teamwork on the job.
must understand that simply assigning staff to a group project
does not make that group a team. Employees need clear guidance
tools, direction, and training to learn how to perform as team
members. They want assurances that they can depend on their teammates
to complete tasks and complement each other's responsibilities.
And they need to see their leaders adopt a similar attitude and
may require additional coaching and training to learn how to function
as team leaders and members, and to serve as role models for their
organizations. Companies should create reward systems that foster
collaboration rather than rivalry.
should participate in creating goals and setting clear operating
agreements about how members will behave toward each other. When
they do so, their companies can succeed-even in these difficult
Randi S. Brenowitz is principal at Brenowitz Consulting, a Palo
Alto, California-based Organization Development Consulting firm
dedicated to improving productivity through teamwork and collaboration.
For over 20 years Brenowitz has worked in partnership with her
clients to develop teams, team leaders and team members in order
to create collaborative work environments and increase corporate
subscribe to Tools for Teams, her electronic newsletter,
For more information, contact Brenowitz Consulting at (650) 843-1611
or visit her website at www.brenowitzconsulting.com.