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Make Your Company’s Challenges a Thing of the Past


December 3, 2009
By Jeff Civillico

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No matter where you work these days, chances are your company is facing one or more various challenges: a shrinking customer base, increasing competition, lower profits, high turnover, etc.

No matter where you work these days, chances are your company is facing
one or more various challenges: a shrinking customer base, increasing
competition, lower profits, high turnover, etc.

In today’s economy, no one is immune from setbacks and obstacles. So
what makes one company able to rebound and recover in the midst of
adversity while other companies throw in the towel and give up? It all
depends on the company’s ability to work through the challenge as a
team.

Despite the proliferation of team building advice available, the fact
is that most people don’t work together to accomplish something good
for the company. Even though many workers give lip service to the idea
of teamwork, they really still want to be seen as the hero – as the
Lone Ranger who tackles the problem, figures out a unique solution, and
gets all the credit.

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Compounding the problem is the economic meltdown. Since many companies
are cutting costs and laying people off, no one wants to be seen as
useless or dispensable. As a result, they take every opportunity they
get to stand out and appear more knowledgeable or more skilled than
anyone else.

While such an approach may enable someone to stay on board for another
pay cycle, it does little to solve the company’s challenges. In order
for true problem solving to take place, everyone needs to put pride and
ego aside and truly work together to come up with viable solutions. In
order to do so without feeling threatened or vulnerable, instill the
following guidelines in your organization.
 

Get to know yourself.
If you don’t really understand who you are, what you stand for, and
what you’re good at, you’ll never have the confidence and security to
step outside yourself and see things from a new perspective. You’ll be
forever stuck in the Lone Ranger mindset, because you’ll be afraid that
allowing someone else to assist you on a project will expose any
shortcomings you have.

The fact is that those who are confident know who they are and where
their strengths lie. As a result, they are able to let go and reach out
to others for insight and help. Because they know themselves
individually, they are better team players – playing to their strengths
and getting assistance for the rest.

Therefore, give yourself the opportunity to get to know who you are. Do
some periodic self-reflections to keep grounded. Look at yourself from
a work perspective as well as a family or personal one. Ask your
friends, family, and co-workers what they perceive as your strengths
and weaknesses so you can gain self-knowledge.

Additionally, many people find such things as meditation and reflection useful for discovering their core interests and talents.
 

Know your role at work.
You were hired for your current role for a reason. What is that role,
and what was the reason you were chosen to do it? If your role has
changed since you were hired, figure out how and why it evolved. Was it
a deliberate re-focusing of your role, or did it “just happen?”

Also look at how your identified strengths help you fulfill your role
to the company. Realize, too, that other people have their roles.
There’s a natural hierarchy of the company or team, and you need to
respect that. Think of the team or company as a system. A more
efficient system will get better results; therefore, you need to let
each part of the system do its role in order for the system to run
smoothly.

So if you’re not “the computer guy,” don’t pretend that you are. Defer
to someone who is adept at that role so you don’t slow down progress or
make things worse.

Deferring to others can be hard, especially when you need to defer to a
junior staffer. After all, no one wants to give up their power. But
you’ll have better results when you do. For example, in a
healthcare-focused company, the boss may be more familiar with broader
trends of the healthcare industry, but the junior staff may be more
familiar with details of cardiology drugs, doctor reimbursement
guidelines, etc.

In this case, the junior staff provides information to supplement or
guide the experts. That’s how working together and using everyone’s
strengths can solve problems.
 

Be open to brainstorming.
No matter what challenge your company is facing, bringing everyone
together for a brainstorming session is sure to help. The key to an
effective brainstorming session is to instill a sense of “blue sky
thinking.”

In other words, no idea is dumb, off limits, or too crazy to voice. Use
a whiteboard to record all the suggestions and to map out how you’ll
get from Point A to Point B. Start with the big ideas, pick a few that
make sense, and then focus them down. As long as you keep the
environment positive and light-hearted, people will be eager to
participate and offer their ideas.
 

Conduct group exercises to get people engaged.
During company meetings or group retreats, get everyone to participate
in some sort of group activity/exercise. Make sure everyone takes on a
role and participates. For example, you can put people together in
groups of five or six and give them the task of building a paper
airplane. They have to design it, measure the distance it travels, and
give it a marketing pitch. The group then has to divide up the labour
and come together at the end to perform a cohesive discussion of their
product.

The goal of any exercise like this is to get people working together
and tackling something new. Whatever the exercise is, it should be
irrelevant to the current challenge your company is trying to solve.
You want people shifting their perspective so they can see problems in
a new light. Additionally, instruct people to take on roles they
normally wouldn’t do.

So in our paper airplane example, perhaps the accountant is responsible
for the marketing campaign and the salesperson must take on a design
and product development role. This enables people to understand the
complexity of other roles and helps them see routine things in a new
way.
 

Maintain a sense of play at work.
During tough economic times, it can be difficult to stay positive at
work. However, if you want to be a lean, mean, problem solving machine,
that is exactly what you must do. Negativity and pessimism are
self-fulfilling and will doom any plans to failure.

Therefore, keep a joyful mindset and choose to look at situations in a
positive way. If you have some negative nay-sayers who are bringing the
group down, talk with them to see if you can help them change their
attitude, as their outlook and behaviours affect the whole company. If
they won’t or can’t change, then it’s time for management to decide if
they’re the type of people who can contribute to the company’s overall
success.
 

Use your team to get ahead
When people take the time to shift their perspective about themselves
and those they work with, everyone can come together for effective
problem solving. So stop giving lip service to the concept of team
building.

Take a proactive approach to getting everyone on the same page and
engaged in solving the company’s toughest problems. When you do, no
problem will be unsolvable, and you’ll have a dedicated and engaged
workforce that takes the company to new levels of success.


Jeff Civillico’s highly engaging program, “Comedy in Action,” blends
comedy, juggling and audience participation both as a featured
entertainer and a Master of Ceremonies at corporate events. An honours
graduate of Georgetown University, he explores themes of communication,
goal setting and teamwork during his workshops.


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