Team work, should you or shouldn’t you?

By Paul Santiago

We might as well admit it: we hate working in a team.

If you ever worked corporate, you know that feeling of dismay at being assigned to a team to make certain changes in a policy or in a process. Or if you’ve never worked corporate (like me) just remember being in a group project in college, where not everyone pulls their own weight.

The thought of returning to a team work environment, actually, doesn’t cross our minds. To us, team work was synonymous to excessive yak-yak-yak, delays, unnecessary activity and frequent meetings with no meeting of the minds. Solitary work was our passport to happiness. 

There’s a reason why a lot of creatives are independent contractors, they like their independence. 

Being able to decide what work needs to get done and moving that needle is very satisfying. No more red tape or checking in with others if this is the right decision to make. At every point in our business, we can take away focus on one thing that doesn’t work and set new goals to adapt to an ever-changing market. Perhaps it’s the nature of our work, we don’t know. 

HUGE Caveat: We make important business decisions ourselves but our wedding and corporate shoots still work in teams. Team work has many benefits, it moves the needle to one direction faster. Team work brings out the best in people; it also serves as a filtering process for great and mediocre ideas. We’d be remiss if we said we didn’t learn a lot from our team members and vice versa. 

There’s strength in numbers. So for those of you who like working in teams to carry out change, what makes for good team work?

The one thing that team leaders must be careful about is to NOT let teams waste time and resources. To do that, these measures are essential –

1. S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely. If your goals are too general, they run the risk of being unattainable or unrealistic. A bad goal is: “Let’s speed up the editing process.” A SMART goal is: “How do we take out the boring part of editing to make the process faster and less stressful? Let’s hire someone to cull through the footage. We should fill that position this month so that we’re ready come wedding season!”

Specific – get someone to cull the footage

Measurable – measure the editing hours you will reduce

Attainable – can you afford to hire someone? 

Realistic – can you find someone who knows how to cull footage?

Timely – find someone within the month. Don’t let the problem drag on. 

2. Let’s share the wealth – when team members agree to work on a project, they like to think that their efforts will be recognized and properly compensated for. The one with more responsibilities typically get paid more than the rest of the team. We value all the work our teams put in, and split the tips evenly among our staff. 

3. Let’s get some division of labor going – the role of team leader is obvious enough. A leader leads, supervises, and accepts responsibility for progress. What about the team members? A structure and a definition and assignment of roles are required. Who will be in charge during the wedding?

4. Key Result Area– you as an owner must be firm about performance levels. State at the outset what minimum level of performance will be acceptable. Identifying measurable areas of improvement as well as clearly lined expectations of what’s the bare minimum team members are expected to do will help  both them and your business grow. 

5. Let’s find out what’s going on – Clear communications at all times is vital. No one should withhold information. Accomplishments must be shared. Also, credit must be given to where it’s due. Make sure everyone understands the meaning of “intellectual honesty.” Praise in public, reprimand in private. 

Eliminate Deadwood

We said earlier that the purpose of a team is to filter good ideas from bad and to draw upon the experiences of others so that the learning curve for less experienced members is not steep. It can happen that one member will stick out like a sore thumb, be uncooperative, disruptive and be an irritant to other members. Non-performers are found everywhere. The team leader must immediately eliminate members who are draining the team’s resources and taxing the patience of team members.

By eliminating the deadwoods, we are sending a clear message to the group about the values that are cherished and behavior that won’t be tolerated at any cost.

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