Building the team

Productivity, job satisfaction, morale and communication contribute to strong teamwork, and without teamwork, companies cannot be successful, says Timothy Duffy, president and CEO of Fighter Associates.

“At the end of the game, it’s all about success — trying to form a good team,” Duffy says. “You can define success however you like, whether it’s job satisfaction, more money, more time off, whatever it is. At the end of the day, people want to be successful. Teams, sharing the opportunities and the risks, are the best way to do it.”

Smart Business spoke with Duffy about how to foster teamwork within a company.

How does a company overcome a lack of teamwork?
Making sure everybody is working toward the same objective. A lot of companies have big master objectives, but really it’s hard for individuals to understand where they fit in.

From a leadership standpoint, at every different level in the organization, making sure everybody understands where they fit in and what part they really own so they can take ownership of it.

How does a company educate employees on how they fit in?
Senior leadership has to have very clear objectives for what they’re looking for from employees. From that point, requiring that the different levels of management take time to work with their people, and make sure they understand where they fit in. It starts at the top, but it can’t just stop there.

Almost every organization puts up their goals. Everybody knows they’re there, but they don’t mean a whole lot. Break it down by division and by specialty or functional area, and say, ‘OK, this is what we can do to support that overall goal.’ Set metrics that they can look at and work toward. When you set the bar for folks, they want to achieve it.

How do you foster teamwork after the excitement of new goals fades?
[Employees] start off with good intentions, but they get distracted. If you have a methodology in place that allows you to come back and keep visiting what your objectives are and how your team is against those objectives, it keeps you from losing that focus.

How frequently should a company review its goals?
It depends on what a business cycle is for them. People on an assembly line may have daily productivity to see how they’re doing. Other companies, the cycle might be two or three months long, so they may be reviewing it less frequently.

By looking at it more frequently, you can make those little changes instead of waiting until something big has to happen to get you back to where you need to be. Tweak it a little bit so it can get back to where it needs to be as opposed to waiting until the end of the year and saying, ‘Wow, we missed terribly.’ Then it’s too late.

How does a large or disjointed company improve teamwork?
Find a core concept that everyone believes in, and drill toward that. There’s something out there that is important to everybody. It might be as basic as if we don’t all do this, we’re going to go out of business and we’ll all lose our jobs.

As you get further away from those core concepts that you’re working for, that’s where you start getting more disjointed. Then everyone has a personal agenda.

How does a company handle someone who has a personal agenda or someone trying to do it all himself/herself?
I’ll be in a room and say, ‘Who here has a personal agenda?’ Everybody does — nobody wants to raise their hand. Most people see themselves in management roles in a few years. They’re very driven, and that’s great; however, they have to understand that being part of a successful team means that you may have your own agenda, but you need to sacrifice yourself from time to time for the good of the team.

For someone who wants to do it all, it comes down to coaching-let them understand that as good as they might be, they’re better with a team. As smart as you are, you can’t know everything. As good as you are, you’re going to make mistakes. We all make mistakes, and that’s fine.

If you have team members there, you’ve got people that can support you. They might see the mistake earlier — they can help you out. It’s in their best interest to share with the team, to delegate, to share tasks.

Timothy Duffy is president and CEO of Fighter Associates, which uses strategies and techniques learned from high-pressure, combat situations and applies them to companies to foster teamwork and growth. Reach him at (617) 619-3763 or