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My problem is that my boss requires us to work together as a team and insists on frequent meetings which, to me, are a waste of time.  I prefer working alone.  I can accomplish my work faster and do things better without the hassle of working with a group of people who don’t care if the needs of their team members are violated.  When my boss calls for a meeting, some arrive late, most are unprepared for the meeting, and almost all, including my boss, are glued to their cellphones.  If they are not talking to someone on the cellphone, they are texting, or reading text message.  Or, there are private meetings during the meeting.  Nobody listens the way they should be listening.  I’m so frustrated with this idea of teamwork but it is forced on us as one of the core (a.k.a. sacred) values of our company.

Mr. Lone Ranger

 

You are exasperated with having to work with members of your section whom you describe the way you did.  I, too, am greatly disturbed and distracted when people, attending meetings or a training class, are busy with their cellphones.  It’s true that teamwork has become a core value of almost all organizations because when people coordinate their efforts and contribute their abilities and skills, much more and better results are achieved.  You can see this in sports teams.

However, people don’t work as a team simply because they are told to do so.  Teamwork requires a great deal of self-denial:  setting aside your own interests and preferences, exerting efforts to see and understand the viewpoint of the other person, being committed to a goal that you may not wholeheartedly agree with, having to coordinate with some team members you may not have positive vibes or may not trust, etc.  Agreeing to a common goal and pursuing a common direction, performing agreed on roles, working out an efficient process that every one should follow regardless of individual differences, are challenges to every team member.  We’ve seen this in movies where a group of talented people are assembled to form a team and given a mission to fulfill.  They go thru the stages of forming, storming and norming before they can work together as a high performing and mature team.  This is why team building is a regular activity and continuous process undertaken by every group, including and especially for, people at the top of the organization.

Your boss insists on team effort, not solo performance, even by talented members like yourself.  Performance assessment includes the important dimension of teamwork.  Your chances of career advancement, especially of following the management career path, include your ability to effectively lead a group and to be a contributing member of a team.  Working and collaborating with others to achieve common goals on agreed-on dates, etc. are indicative of a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Any corporate setting – private business, government and non-government agencies, religious, political and socio-civic organizations, requires that people work together with people — superiors, peers, subordinates, external customers, etc.  Even if you are given a project to undertake by yourself, you still need to coordinate with peers whose outputs are your inputs, or vice versa.

I agree with your idea of how people in a team should behave during meetings.  However, if you are a member of a team, you have no control over the behaviors of your boss and over your peers.  Since you can not change them, focus instead on changing yourself, starting with your thoughts and feelings and then your behaviors.  Perhaps if you change your behaviors, you might influence others to change their behaviors as well.  However, don’t count on this.

There are five proactive ways that you can do to bring about a change in your situation:

First: Think positively of teamwork and team effort.  See movies where team effort lead to the successful accomplishment of seemingly impossible goals.  Observe basketball teams on the court.  Sell and buy the idea of teamwork.

Second: See the members of your team as people, like you, with needs, values and interests and preferences which are different from one another.  As such, they are pursuing their own agenda and are meeting them thru the use of their cellphones.  Your boss tolerates it; his own role modeling gives it a stamp of approval.

If you are self-confident, assertive and have a positive relationship with your boss, you can suggest to him/her the benefits of a focused meeting: better quality listening, discussion and decisions.  Developing a positive relationship with your boss requires that you follow his/her instructions and directions, not resist them or criticize his/her leadership style.

Third: Be a positive role model of a good team player.  Come on time for meetings, and come prepared; listen attentively; actively participate in the discussion, etc.  Don’t bring your cellphone with you; don’t even put it in front of you.

Fourth: Give positive feedback to those who listen and participate during meetings.  You can affirm people by positive reinforcement of their positive behaviors.  For example:  “I like the way you built on the idea of Tom and amplified it.” “Thank you for listening to me.”

Fifth: Develop a positive relationship with your fellow team members so that they will be open to your suggestions on ways and means of improving participation in meetings and coordination on projects.  Listen and be open to their ideas as well.

The above are some ways you can exercise personal leadership by influencing people to behave in positive ways

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria

I felt encouraged to write you for advice after reading the problem of Ms. Career Wife and your advice to her in the Working People section of the Inquirer, dated December 17, 2006.  But, unlike her, I’m the one who desires to get out of corporate life, and devote my time to helping my husband in his successful law practice.  I’m 45 years old, a law graduate and have passed the bar.

But my problem is I don’t have the heart to leave my elderly parents who are both in their late 70s, as I manage our family business.  I have been working with my parents for the past 15 years, after a stint in the government service as legal assistant. I am the only one who can take over the business for which my parents have trained me. My only sibling, a brother, lives and works in the U.S.  My parents have worked hard to build this business and they were very happy when I voluntarily told them of my decision to help them.  They are confident that I will build on what they had done and have introduced me to our clients as their successor.

But things have changed.  My husband who has become a successful law practitioner, now wants me to join him as his partner because his client base is expanding.  My parents had given financial assistance to my husband in putting up his law office and we are both very grateful for this.

I know my priority is my husband, but how can I tell my parents my decision without breaking their hearts?

Ms. Wife in Dilemma

 

I can appreciate the conflict you are going through and the great difficulty you experience in telling your parents who had pinned their hopes in you that the business they had built and nurtured will be taken cared of by their lawyer-daughter.  You also feel a big sense of gratitude to them for having given your husband financial assistance to set up his law office.

From your letter, I surmised that your parents had not put pressure on you to join them in the family business.  This means that they had allowed you to exercise your freedom of choice.  It is this attitude of theirs that you can rely on when you break the news to them of your decision to leave the family business.

You are sure of your decision to join your spouse and I agree with you.  You are, however, unsure of your parents’ reaction and are fearful of hurting them.

I suggest you write a script of what you will tell them so that you are in control of what you will say and how you will say it.  If you are anxious about telling them directly, you may want to write them a letter, rather than give your message orally and in person.  Make sure, however, that they get the letter and read it. Whether given orally or in writing, you may need to make the following outline of your “brief”:

  1. Thank them for the financial assistance they had given your husband in putting up his law office.
  2. Express your gratitude to them for entrusting to you the family business that they had grown all these years.
  3. Tell them that the law practice of your husband has flourished.  He now needs you to help him by being his partner; that you welcome this as an opportunity to help your husband and, at the same time, practice your law profession.
  4. You would always be available to help them manage the business but that the three of you need to identify a good successor to manage the business and that you would be around to oversee how the successor is running the business and to mentor him/her.

After telling them your decision, give them time to respond, perhaps a month. Continue to work with them, then ask them for a meeting.  Suggest that the three of you get a professional person to manage the business.  Such a successor could be a promising or high potential employee or an outsider with the technical background, leadership skills and management savvy to run the business.  Such a successor must be brought in as soon as possible so the three of you can observe his/her work attitudes, behaviors and performance.  You can mentor this person as you allow him/her to take more and more responsibility, accountability and authority as you lessen your visibility  and involvement in the operations of the business.

If the person does not live up to your expectations during the probationary period, get a replacement.  The important thing is that you are setting succession in place for a sense of continuity and stability of the business that will impact on your employees’ morale and motivation, and your clients’ continuous patronage.

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria