I was talking at dinner recently with a friend who has been working on some big structural changes for her department that are driven by the whole company. These changes will help all the folks on her team have more clarity in tasks. It has been a tremendous amount of work for her to define all these new roles based on need, company structure and employee skill sets, but the hard part has only begun because she has to craft the best way to present this change to the group as a whole and to each individual on the team.
An important job for middle managers is to translate and appropriately implement company changes for the team. The manager needs to have a solid understanding of the intent behind the plan to figure out how the plan will affect the atmosphere of the team and be prepared.
The French have a good phrase for the atmosphere of the team, esprit de corps. The literal translation is spirit of the military unit but the definition has expanded from the original military meaning to encompass a sense of unity, common interests and responsibilities. Merriam-Webster also includes, ‘a strong regard for the honor of the group’.
Team player is a phrase that we hear a great deal these days, one that can have very different meanings depending on the level of the person using the phrase. The team dynamic is determined by structure imposed by your organization as well as by the type of work and the process applied to complete that work. The atmosphere of the team, the esprit de corps is predicated on all the members of the team, regardless of level within the hierarchy.
Working is a whole lot more pleasant if you like what you do, where you do it and who you do it with – simply stated. Workers have a certain amount of control over what they do in respect to choosing a profession. Workers have a certain amount of control over where they work in respect to deciding whether or not to accept a job offer or stay at the current organization. Co-workers, like siblings, are pretty much the luck of the draw, though there is a potential of maneuvering into a different department within the same company where you think you might be a better fit or getting into a place by way of a friend.
The area where the worker has the most control in this context is how each decides to contribute to the esprit de corps. Seeing this in terms of showing our regard for the honor of the group gives each of us a power to represent Aristotle’s quote that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ in a new way.
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