Why teamwork is important for your career?

“A major reason capable people fail to advance is that they don’t work well with their colleagues.” – Lee Iacocca


Every day we hear or read about teamwork and its importance for business. We talk about it in conversations, blogs, and presentations. We are trained about it and/or participate in team-building activities very often. There is so much noise about it that some people may think it is overrated. Well, it is not.

Most people understand why teamwork is important for companies. Teamwork is also important for individuals that desire to advance their careers. And this importance is even more critical if the person wants to have a leadership role.

Some time ago I was working with the management group to put together the list of people for the first lean manufacturing training. This will be the team that will work on the lean manufacturing implementation. The general manager mentioned one name that caused a lot of hesitation. The reason for the discussion was that this person was notorious for his lack of teamwork. John (not his real name), worked for the company for over twenty years. He had more process experience and knowledge than most people. John is very reliable, he will come to work every day on time and will finish his projects successfully. He is also the guy that would volunteers for those tasks that nobody else wants. All these things make him a very good candidate for a supervisor position, even a future manager. The only thing that has been on the way for a promotion for years is his lack of teamwork. 

Why teamwork is so important? Like children with their parents, team members learn from what they see from their leader. If the leader practice teamwork, the team will be driven to share the same behavior. 

Team member’s interact more and better when they understand the relationship between roles. Understanding how their responsibilities interact with other members’ responsibilities facilitates teamwork. Knowing their impact on the output helps team members to understand and share vision and goals. Now, is not the individual contribution but the synergy created by mutual support.

Collaboration can help solve difficult problems or create innovative ways to do things. Brainstorming is good for the team to exchange ideas and come up with creative ways of doing things. By working together, teams can find solutions that work best. Team members will feel a great sense of accomplishment by finding those solutions. Cooperation, trust, and respect are built one step at the time.

Leadership positions are out of the future for people like John. Not being able to be examples of teamwork or drive teamwork is the roadblock for promotion. But not everything is lost, it takes time but it is possible to learn how to communicate effectively and be a part of the team. The following are some important characteristics of a good team member:

  • Respect your coworkers, listen to their words. Practice tolerance when you don’t agree with their point of view. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard.
  • Be honest and fair. Explain your point of view, use facts, keep the discussion professional but real. Make sure what you say and what you do are giving the same message. In other words, keep your verbal and nonverbal language on the same page. This limits confusion.
  • Focus on the behavior or problem, not on the person. People become defensive when criticized. Keep the discussion focused on the task and the issues.
  • Shares the load. A good team member does his or her fair share of the work. Be reliable, when you say you are going to do something, do it! There is a sense of equity and fairness in a good team member. This is important for team members’ collective motivation.
  • Validate others’ contributions. Compliment team members on good ideas and suggestions. This makes them feel a part of the team and encourages future participation.

The list above is not a magical solution to be a better team member. You need to know what you lack and consciously work to improve it. It is about been aware of your weaknesses and practice, practice, practice.

Five S

Digital Clutter on your Computer

These days most of us have computers at home, intelligent cell phones, or both. We have home the same issues we have in the office with digital clutter. Digital clutter is distracting. Some people have an account on every single social media they know of. They need time to keep up with all those accounts. This takes the joy out of the social media experience. Also, takes time away time from creating new experiences with real people around.

Having too many apps on the phone, along with too many pictures lead to running out of space on their phones. The common solution to no space is to upgrade to a newer model with more memory that soon will have to upgrade again. The same happens with the home computer.

The idea about social media and technology is to use it to enjoy and help our lives not to act against us. The following ideas will work to keep digital clutter under control:

1. Email account – I have a couple of friends that have over a thousand emails on their Inbox, which is crazy. If this is your case as well, you have to get rid of those subscriptions that you are not interested in anymore. Make a routine to read your emails daily or at least weekly; do not let them accumulate. Another thing to look at on your email account is your contacts, avoid duplicates. Sometimes we have the person saved as two different contacts, one with the phone number and another with the email address. Some email apps will identify the duplicates for you and will ask if you want to combine or delete if you have it use It.

2. Desktop – Do not clutter your desktop with shortcuts. Shortcuts for everything will not help to be more efficient. The same goes for files and folders. Do not save everything on the desktop, the more you have the slower the computer will be at start-up. Keep shortcuts for those applications or programs that you use very often.

3. Documents – Create folders to keep similar subject documents, like gardening or DIY projects. Use a logic name related to the documents you keep inside. If you have thousands of pictures and or lots of documents, consider keeping some or all on a cloud service. Do not create too many folders, keep them organized. Every once in a while review the folders and delete duplicate or no needed files.

4. Programs or applications – Sometimes we download more than one application before finding the right one. The problem is that when we finally find the perfect app, we do not go back to uninstall the old ones. Uninstalling old programs or applications will free up space on the hard drive. While checking for unused apps, check also for drivers. Uninstall or delete digital manuals and apps from old devices no longer in use.

5. Media (Pictures/Music/Videos) – The good thing about digital, is that you can keep all the photos, music, books, videos and movies you want. That is also the bad thing about digital media. To avoid clutter, avoid keeping duplicates, like five versions of the same song. Sometimes we shoot fifty photographs of the same scene to choose one, we don’t need to keep all fifty of them. It helps to create the folder, save keepers and delete the others right after uploading the pictures from the camera.

6. Internet browser – Your internet browser can be your best friend or not. It takes some time but you can manage to have a browser that will help you to enjoy your time and fight clutter. Let’s start with the bookmarks and reading lists. As with everything else, delete what you no longer need. Un-subscribe from blogs that you are not interested in anymore. Cookies and temporary internet files accumulate over time. This creates space and speed issues on your computer. Delete them and do it every once in a while, this needs to be part of the computer preventive maintenance.

After all the uninstalling and deleting a final step is to clean up your disc. Learn how to analyze, clean up and complete defragmentation on your computer. This is another way to free up some space and keep your computer healthy. Keep your computer and phone clutter-free and enjoy!

Continuous Improvement, Workplace

Everything will be ok

As leaders, there are countless ways we influence our teams. As human beings, there are countless ways we can influence our teams. Leadership is a key element in continuous improvement initiatives. Those who can manage their emotions are likely to be more engaged in their work.

Our mood is different every day; and affects our energy level, positivism, and focus. As leaders, we cannot let our emotions control our actions. The workplace is full of opportunities to derail our continuous improvement efforts. Some of them are different levels of engagement, not believers, management lack of support and toxic work environment. How we manage those challenges will determine the success of our efforts. The way we manage our emotions is even more important.

People are watching our reaction every time something arise. Positive reactions will influence positive behavior in our team. The ability to react positively is a learned behavior, requires practice. The more we learn how to identify and understand our emotions the more we learn about how those emotions influence our behavior. The goal is to learn how we can control and use those emotions in our favor. Those who understand their emotions can capitalize on them to overcome obstacles. Also, is a way to keep a good mood and model positive behaviors.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. EI is a very important trait for leadership success. People with a high degree of EI know what they are feeling, what it means, and how can affect other people. Every day will come with different challenges, sometimes the same over and over. Emotional intelligence is what helps us to work with them. Keeping your cool when things go different from expected is not an easy task. If you can manage to do it, your team will learn how to do it too. A good leader is also honest, there are times on which expecting a good outcome is impossible. When we hit those, it is ok to accept it, regroup, make a new plan and keep going.

How to keep yourself calm in difficult situations is a huge challenge. In my humble opinion (by no means an expert opinion) is that everything comes down to how well you know yourself. The critical step is to know your emotions, identify how you feel and learn how to control your feelings. When I recognize that I need time to control myself, I take a walk. Walking through the plant, talking with people almost always make me feel better. It helps me to calm down and gain a different perspective. Sometimes I even talk about the situation with them. More often than not, the conclusion is that everything will be alright. Train the mind to use positive words and stay clear from negative ones. This simple trick is a way to keep you and your team moving in the right direction.

Continuous Improvement, Work Standards

What is Standard Work?

We need standards in our work areas to provide a guide for our employees to do their job.  Standard work is a simple written description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way known to perform a particular task.  Once a standard is established it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes.   Standards are not written in stone, the expectation is to improve them continuously.

When creating standard work is important to focus on the employee and not the equipment or materials.  We are looking to ensure effective consistent work.  Involve a group of your employees to help on building the standard, this will minimize the resistance and increase the chances of identifying the best process.

A famous quote attributed to Taiichi Ohno says “Without standards, there can be no kaizen”.   If you don’t know how you are doing something or if you are not consistent on the way you are doing it there is no way you can do it better.  Standard work is the foundation of continuous improvement, yet it is the piece of the improvement that many organizations fail to implement.  In companies where the average employee have five years or more of experience and the turn over rate is very low, managers feel that standards are not necessary because everybody knows their jobs and they do not hire new employees very often.

But, is everybody doing things in the same way?  What is going to happen when that very talented and very experienced team retire?  How you make sure you retain their knowledge?  That is where standard procedures came very handy, they document the best way to do the work and provide an excellent tool for new hires and to ensure there is only one way to do things.