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June 22, 2018

Small Business Advice

Encouraging a team approach vital in workplace

Jerry Osteryoung | 10/20/2013

I recently had two experiences that reinforced for me just how vital teamwork is to every organization’s success. It is so important to foster collaboration among all of your workers.

For the past two years I have served on a commission, and recently we had a hearing that required six commission members to work together to produce a recommendation we considered fair and reasonable. I was impressed with how this group was able to come to an agreement despite the fact that we all had such different backgrounds.

Every one of us had an opinion, of course, but we all listened to each other carefully and were respectful of each other when our viewpoints differed. In fact, when one person felt strongly about an issue and was outvoted by the others, everyone went out of their way to make sure that person did not feel rejected or devalued.

The hearing was hard work, but at the end of it we all were pleased with the experience. We had worked in true collaboration, so we all felt that we had each contributed to the results.

About eight months ago I went back to playing doubles tennis after taking over 20 years off. A group of 12 to 16 of us get together two to three mornings a week to play, and we change partners every half hour. Sometimes you get good partners and sometimes not as good, but you always know your partner is going to put in 100 percent to win the match.

Tennis has retaught me the importance of being a team player, regardless of who you are matched up with. We may not win every set, but working together to achieve a common goal (in this case, winning) is always fulfilling.

Many companies report that employee morale and production increase after adopting a team concept. This collaborative atmosphere goes a long way to make the point that each employee is important to the mission of the firm and holds a stake in its success.

Most people want to be a member of a winning team, so it will be rare to find someone who refuses to participate. If you do come across one of these rare people, allowing them in your workplace is like having a rogue bull in the pasture — it is always a bad idea. As the leader, it is your job to first foster teamwork in your organization, then protect it to ensure it stays strong.

Start small by building teams that you know will be successful. Then use that success to help spread the concept to the rest of the organization. If you feel like you might need help establishing teamwork as a core value, there are many books and training opportunities out there you can take advantage of.

Now go out and look into making your organization more team-driven.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here.

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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