South African managers are so obsessed with fostering team play in the work place without understanding the risks of doing so. Team play only really works effectively in a manufacturing/production environment where one section of the manufacturing process always depends on another. However, too many managers rely too much on team play in a sales environment when in fact, they should be encouraging competition. Why so? Team play makes people lazy. Why should people work to 100% of their potential when they can rely on someone else doing all the work? Right? Exactly, and that is where SA managers (and others) go wrong. Slackers depend on hardworkers to reach target so that they can benefit in the same way.
I have always maintained this stance much to my detriment, always working like a dog while others take time off to go out for a drink during "lunch-time" which can last anything up to 3 hours. When it comes to taking the glory, the slackers are the first to shout 'hooray' knowing that they will benefit from my stupidity.
Psychology research will tell you that teams only work to a maximum of 60% of their capacity and will regulate their productivity in accordance with the most influential person who might also very well be the laziest person. Whereas individuals who are encouraged to achieve will usually and always follow the strongest performer and if unable to do so, will leave when he feels too much pressure to keep up.
I was relieved to discover when reading a very interesting book entitled [I]Critical Mass[I] by Philip Ball, that companies that aim to maximise profits and minimise losses usually don't do so and will eventually tumble. However, companies that rely on productive employees and keep them so, usually last. Why? It seems that as soon as a company becomes profitable, it has the tendency to increase its staff compliment. Now herein lies the problem. The more employees a company has, the more slackers it will have as people naturally assume that they can hide in a crowd unnoticed. As soon as the hard working folk notice this, they find employment elsewhere, leaving the company with an imbalance of slackers versus hardworkers.
Where am I going with this? Managers, I urge you, do not encourage team play. Encourage people to work to their potential, reward them and retain their services. A large staff compliment will give in to the crowd effect.
It would be to your advantage to highlight and reward achievers. Encourage respect, participation and accountability.
Team play in my view is just a sophisticated form of gangsterism of which I can cite many examples.
Take a look at the world's greatest achievers. Bill Gates was not a team player when he split with Steve Jobs. Donald Trump is clearly not a team player as he believes in flying high - not a place for the average person. Richard Branson was a solo nineteen-year old when he made his first chunk of change.
Question: do you want to be a follower or do you want to be a leader?