#303 from Innovative Leader Volume 6, Number 10          October 1997

Core Values for Functional Teams
by Dianne Loy-Ferri

Ms. Loy-Ferri is founder of TIGERS Success Series, helping organizations with leadership, group dynamics and value-based team building.  P.O. Box 8236, Spokane, WA 99203.  Phone (541) 385-7465.  Email tigers@ucinet.com. www.corevalues.com

I wanted to know what is necessary to create an ethical, quality focused, successful and productive group of people?  My study reviewed group dynamics’ research in education, psychology and business.  I then developed a model to help organizations increase productivity, improve morale and develop leadership skills.   

People are rarely fired for not knowing how to perform work... given that they were hired for their skills or for their potential to be trained on the job.  People are most often fired because they don’t know how to get along with coworkers or customers.   

Successful small business owners with a stable workforce have learned this lesson early on.  However, leaders of larger organizations who are shifting their operations from traditional work practices to group-centered enterprises are awakening to the realization that more than work design comes into play.  Identifying what the organization holds to be important, and identifying behaviors that support group efforts, as well as those behaviors that tear group efforts down, are essential tools for the savvy manager.  

When behavior is known to create harmonious and productive groups, it can be repeated.  When behavior is known to distract from harmonious and productive growth, it can be counseled to.  Understanding core values that promote functional group dynamics is, therefore, paramount for anchoring the group’s culture and for understanding why some people work well together and why some don’t.

Six Core Values

TIGERS is a group-development model that addresses key values that affect group harmony and productivity.  It requires six core values:  Trust, Interdependence, Genuineness, Empathy, Risk and Success.  

Trust.  Trust is the belief and confidence in the integrity, reliability and fairness of a person or organization.  Trust is an essential human value.  Like a fine oil, trust is the lubrication that keeps teams functional when conflict arises.  It is difficult to acquire, and if abused, harder to salvage.   If destroyed, people will be asked to, or choose to, leave the organization.

What behaviors destroy trust?               

  Competition between workers    
  Lack of follow-through
  Not walking the talk                                     
 Falsifying information                                  
  Withholding praise                                      
  Inconsistency and lack of predictability                                                  

What behaviors build trust?

  Sharing information
  Openly discussing disappointments
  Soliciting and implementing people’s ideas when appropriate
  Establishing and communicating expectations, standards and ground rules

Interdependence.  Interdependence relies on behaviors founded on sharing, openness,
acceptance, support and personal wholeness.  It’s based on the idea that if “we win, I win.”  Interdependence, therefore, means that two or more people appreciate and rely on each others strengths, and are mutually responsible for their own limitations.  Because interdependence requires self awareness and appreciation for others, it demands high levels of emotional maturity and self-esteem.

What behaviors destroy interdependence?         

  Encouraging management to believe they can change people              
  Encouraging management to believe they have all the answers           
  Encouraging management to believe they must solve all the problems    
  Allowing people to blame co-workers for systems problems                      
  Allowing an Us and Them attitude to thrive in the workplace                                         

What behaviors build interdependence?

  Win-win problem solving and the reduction in win-lose and lose-lose conflict solutions
  When procedural and communication errors transpire between people—apologize and forgive 
  Teambuilding
  Facilitating management practices
  Allowing workers to change ineffective work procedures that directly effect them
  Building a sense of responsibility and accountability among managers and workers

Genuineness.  Genuineness is a personal quality each person needs to bring to the team.  It promotes sincere, honest, respectful and direct communication in an open and responsible way.  Obstacles that most often impede genuine behavior stem from both internal and external sources.  Internal obstacles include fear of change, abandonment and being wrong.  This results in reality avoidance, dishonesty, rationalization and performance anxiety.  External obstacles focus on fear of repercussions.

What behaviors destroy genuineness?

  Triangulation or allowing people to discuss concerns and complaints with co-workers or others who have no power to bring matters to closure
  Inferences made, and not challenged, about people’s behavior and intentions
  Not speaking the truth about one’s observations, facts or feelings

What behaviors build genuineness?

  Critical thinking skill development
  Confrontation and feedback skill development
  Sharing information and discussion concerns
  Respect for self and others
  Anger management

Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and ideas of another person.  It is essential for resolving conflict in ways where everyone wins.  Each employee has certain rights that are linked to empathy.  These include the right of respect, emotional safety, physical safety and opportunity for fulfillment.   Empathy, therefore, has a powerful influence on successful conflict resolution and team harmony.

What behaviors destroy empathy?                     

  Narcissism and self-obsession                    
  Rationalizing that the end justifies the means                         
  Aggressive competition

What behaviors build empathy?

  Care for self and others
  Desire to understand others
  Collaboration
  Developing excellent listening skills

Risk.  Risk is a potential exposure to loss or injury resulting in fear of the unknown.  On the downside, the fear of risk results in stagnation because if people are penalized for calculated risk-taking, they become fearful of new ideas.  On the upside, risk is the fuel behind change and quality improvements.  Therefore, organizations that fail to look at errors as learning tools are not as responsive to market competition as organizations that do. 

What behaviors destroy risk?                            

  Punishing people who make mistakes             
  Failure to clarify goals and expectations         
  Criticism                                                       
  Fear and isolation                                               
  Perfectionism and over-analysis                           

What behaviors build risk?

  Performance feedback and coaching
  Establishing accountability and responsibility at all levels of the organization
  Debriefing completed projects and developing improvement plans

Success.  Success means effectively achieving what an organization has set out to do.  It is a fundamental rationality for why teams are formed.  For this reason, it’s essential that team members clearly understand and commit to organizational change and to an organization’s mission and goals.  If people resolutely feel that a change or a goal won’t be successful, they will demand a change in leadership or quit. 

What behaviors destroy success?

  Lack of personal commitment and accountability for organizational goals
  Withholding information caused by competition between work groups
  Poor morale
  Lack of direction
  Short-term problem solving

What behaviors build success?

  Building commitment and ownership of company goals at all levels of organization
  Involving as many worker’s ideas into goal implementation as appropriate
  Establishing and communicating quality standards, planning, work design and system refinement to all levels of operation

Core-values strike a balance between how work is done and the people doing the work.  When values are recognized and held as important, the resulting conduct creates greater harmony among people, which results in less strife.  The payoff is increased creativity and improved morale.  In those organizations where behavior standards are spelled out and the expectations of how people are to treat one another are commonly known, both group harmony and  increased productivity follow.

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