Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 4/24/2003
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Is Anybody There?
Does Anybody Care?
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Have you ever felt that yours is a lone voice in the wilderness, crying
out but not being heard, or if heard, not being listened to?
As humans, we have a need to interact with others, to speak and be
heard and listened to, and to listen and understand what is being said and to
respond. Without such
interactions, we feel alone and isolated, and this can be terribly frustrating
and demoralizing. In a work
environment we usually work as part of a team, but sometimes it is a team in
name only, and meaningful interaction among the team members is minimal or
non-existent. Such a situation
should not be allowed to start or grow, for it can have negative consequences
to the work of the team, and to the success of the company.
The title of this e-Newsletter comes from the musical play “1776”,
which tells the story of the founding fathers leading to the drafting and
signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Most of the founding fathers are in Philadelphia discussing the
situation with England. George Washington, however, is the General in the field
sending back dispatches and urgent requests for help in manpower, supplies,
and more, most of which have been unanswered or not acted upon. Washington perseveres, but in one of his messages he asks,
“Is anybody there? Does anybody
care?” He feels alone and
isolated from his ‘team’ and seeks their help, but gets no real
acknowledgement or assistance.
Unfortunately, all too often, employees in the work environment feel the same
way – that no-one hears them or listens, and no feedback is provided.
This is a dysfunctional situation that must be remedied.
Everyone contributes to make such a bad situation exist, and there are
roles for everyone to play to reverse such a situation.
► Upper Management: Upper Management must foster an environment
where team participation is recognized, celebrated, and the norm.
They must lead by example to show that they work well as a team, with
close cooperation and recognition that the results of their team are more
important than the contributions of each individual.
Further, they must communicate this team spirit by deeds and by words. Employees will quickly see right through a false team spirit.
As with many things in a company, the tone and culture of the company
is set from the top. [See eN-030102
- Poor Company Vision Clouds Everyone's View, and eN-030116
- Poor Product Vision Blinds Engineering]
► Direct Chain of Management: Your direct chain of management
sets the tone for their groups. They
determine whether team efforts are recognized and rewarded, or whether
specific individuals are honored. Clearly
there is room for both. A great
team effort should be recognized as such, and rewards, such as public
acclamation at company meetings or luncheons for the team, should be expected.
Outstanding individual contributions should also be recognized
publicly; such outstanding performance can serve as an incentive for others to
go above and beyond their normal duties. However, if recognition goes only to
specific individuals, and to the same individuals time after time, this can
become a negative incentive, where team efforts are not recognized, and the
probability of you being recognized for your personal efforts, unless you are
one of the “chosen ones”, is very small.
[See eN-030313 – Move the Rocks and
People Travel Faster]
► Direct Manager: Your direct manager sets the tone for
your team. He/she must establish
the framework for the group, and must lead by example in bringing people
together in an atmosphere of friendly camaraderie.
All must be welcomed and encouraged to work closely together.
No-one can be left alone to become an outsider.
His/her role is extremely critical. [See eN-030327
– Do Jobs Right – Assign the Right People!]
► Team Members: In
the same way that it takes two or more to hold a conversation, it takes two or
more to make a real team. The
members of the team must make conscious efforts to work together, to get to
know each other, to get to trust each other, and to make the results of the
efforts of the team greater than the sum of the efforts of each team member.
You get a real feeling of success and enjoyment when everything clicks
and the team works as one integrated unit.
Your team becomes unstoppable. Such
synergy is often difficult to achieve, but it is incredibly rewarding. However, it usually takes only one team member not
participating fully to destroy the synergy, and with time to completely
destroy the team. The team must
work together to ensure this doesn’t happen, and help out a fellow team
member who is having problems.
► Individual Affected: Finally, you have the most direct role on
whether you are seen, heard, and recognized.
You can’t simply withdraw into your shell, do your job, and make no
attempts to interact with others. People
will generally treat you as you treat them.
If you keep to yourself, they will let you.
If you make attempts to interact, they will as well.
If you reach out to be a strong member of the team, they will welcome
you. Remember, it is not only
what you say, but also how you say it with non-verbal body language, speech
inflection, and more. To be part
of the team, you must really want to be part of the team. [See eN-030213
– Even Small Cogs Are Essential to the Machine (Recognizing That Your Role
Makes a Difference), and eN-030227
– It’s Your Responsibility to Know Your Role in Implementing the Vision
We all want to be part of a greater effort, and to contribute and to be
recognized, both individually and as part of a successful team.
In the right organizational structures, people are there, and people do
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