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The Secrets to Successful Teamwork:
Trust and Accountability

By Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

Oftentimes, life would be great, if it weren’t for other people! Yet, it’s through relationships with others that you often obtain the greatest rewards. Your office is where you spend many hours of your life, so getting along and working productively with your colleagues is very important. Unfortunately, many employees experience stress because team members argue, give each other the silent treatment or allow one person to do all the work.

So how can you find ways to get along and create a successful team? Trust and respect are two essential elements for building relationships in the office and beyond. It’s all about the relationships you have with people – which doesn’t necessarily mean friendships. Relationships are built over time, when one person has respect for another. Gradually trust beings to build, too. You don’t have to be a close personal friend with everyone in your office, but you do always need to show each person respect and professionalism. Here are some guidelines to facilitate accountability and build trust among your team:

Defined duties: Eighty percent of the job is specified by your job description and responsibilities. Twenty percent of your time, however, is spent helping colleagues and clients. Create an atmosphere where everyone bends over backwards for the other person. A successful, trusted and well-respected team member uses words like, absolutely or certainly when asked for help. Look for things that need to be done and do them without being asked! This is the true definition of teamwork.

Be clear with prospective employees during the interview process. What are your expectations? Hold your existing employees and new hires to consistent standards, outlined in your policy manual. True teamwork demands that all employees are held to the same standards and most importantly, do whatever is necessary to take care of the customer!

Define your expectations in an office policy manual. A personnel policy and office manual should cover individual and team responsibilities. If you don’t already have one, or if you have one that needs updating, be sure it includes items such as:

  • Job description

  • Office and working hours

  • Leave time

  • Professional appearance, including body piercing, tattoos and hair color

  • Salary

  • Other benefits

  • Outside employment

  • Probationary periods

  • Performance Reviews

  • Absenteeism and tardiness

  • Reprimand policy

  • Discipline

  • Termination

  • Leave of Absence: Disability, Maternity/Paternity, Bereavement, Jury Duty

  • Sick leave/Well pay bonus

  • Holiday

  • Personal days

  • Inclement weather

  • Personal phone calls

  • Smoking

  • Internet and cell phone usage

Check with your attorney on your individual state hiring/employment laws and craft your office manual accordingly. Be aware, however, that more important than defining your expectations: you need to be consistent in holding all employees to the same standard, or else you will create an atmosphere of favoritism!

Outline the time commitment and set aside adequate time for each task. It is not fair to assign or accept a responsibility and then have no time to accomplish the task. Be realistic about the timeframe, and make sure your team members are aware of the deadlines for each project they take on.

Be careful to not overload your staff with too many commitments or too many interruptions. They will get discouraged and burned out. Instead, focus on delegating one task at a time, communicating the objective and timeframe clearly.

Follow through by putting a note on your calendar to check on progress. If you don’t check on progress, the task may not be accomplished. Find out how the project is progressing and show interest. Ask questions about the task, and offer your advice and help if needed. Recognize your employee for taking on the responsibility. It is discouraging for a team member to work hard and not received recognition for a job well done!

Avoid showing favoritism toward specific team members. To build trust and accountability, businesses need consistent leadership. One way is to have effective team meetings on a regular basis for feedback and input on projects. With team meetings, allow your staff members the opportunity to volunteer for special tasks and projects. Remember, it’s impossible to build trust if one person is favored over others. Ask yourself: Do your staff members believe they are treated fairly, without prejudice? Do some feel excluded from the decision-making process? Does one person “do it all?” When there is no accountability, often times one person will pick up the slack and take on too many responsibilities.

Encourage your team members to stand up and lead! Ask them about their concerns and the collective concerns of the team. Often, teams express concerns about drama in the office, other team members making personal calls during business hours, and team members bringing personal issues from home to work. Other concerns often involve not enough training on new systems, negativity in the office or people not taking responsibility. As a leader, do what you can to resolve these issues before they become areas of contention or conflict.   

Open the lines of communication by having an open door policy. Manage by “walking around.” Know the concerns of your team and deal with them head on. Ignoring your staff’s concerns will not make them go away! Be positive in your approach and dependable in your attitude. Do not lose your temper. Instead, be reasonable and predicable. If you respond inappropriately, whether out of anger or insult, your team will remember the 10 percent of the time that you were out of control, not the 90 percent of the time that you did well!

Ask your team members to bend over backwards for each other. To do this, begin a team meeting session by asking your staff to define the qualities of teamwork that impress them. Ask them to think about someone they’ve known in the past or present that represents a true team player: What are the attributes of this person? Often you’ll hear: Consistency, fairness, general cheerfulness, flexibility, positivity, and the willingness to change. How do you rate in these categories?

Bonus tip: True teamwork means encouraging individual leadership development. To win in today’s market, you need to step up and take a leadership role and ask the same of your team members.

Ask your team members to listen. At your team meetings, encourage respectful listening. Allow others to speak, without interruption. Let their voice be heard. There are four things team members need to feel great about their workplace and feel like a team member:

  • Appreciation and recognition

  • A sense of belonging to a close knit team

  • Responsibility and a feeling that their voice matters

  • Money: pay and benefits

Sincere listening will increase your level of teamwork! To do this, ask questions. Instead of giving direct orders, ask questions to guide your team members to think through issues and come up with their own solutions. You will find that ownership and subsequent responsibility for the task increase when the team member develops the solution. Lastly, value your staff. Reassure your team members that their contribution and leadership does have a huge impact on your company’s growth and survival.

By following these steps and increasing the accountability of your office staff, you create trust and respect in the workplace. With these changes, your sense of teamwork and trust will grow, while decreasing your levels of stress and conflict!

Read other articles and learn more about Rhonda R. Savage, DDS.

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