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5 Steps to Unity and Stronger Teams 

Author: Michelle L Steffes, CPLC

Learn how to destroy the barriers that turn coworkers into competitors. This document will offer simple steps that will create a new atmosphere within the workplace tearing down silos, turf wars and politics to produce a “safe place” for positive morale to breed. Note: changing a culture is not an event but a process of good decisions and implementation of systems that clearly define vision and elevate team members.

70% of Corporate America is disengaged costing over $450 billion per year.

When disunity is present, is is very costly due to…

  • Lack of Performance because of low morale
  • Lack of proper training from staff members who take no ownership or feel mistreated
  • Increasing numbers of staff “calling in sick” because they dislike their job
  • High turn over
  • Lack of team spirit reducing productivity
  • Supervisors needing to “put out fires” instead of being able to do their jobs.


  1. Recognizing the Symptoms – we all recognize them to some degree.
    1. Strife between employees or departments
    2. Too many complaints in HR
    3. A general sense of dissatisfied employees
    4. Too many “fires”
    5. A paranoid attitude from staff when an authority figure steps into the room
    6. A pattern of cliques at meetings and events and departments
    7. A lack of overall performance or consistency within an entire operation or in distinct departments.
    8. Political games played between employees or departments
    9. Low attendance at employee “celebration” events.
  2. Diagnosing the Disease
    1. Pinpoint if it is all employees or just a select few departments or staff members
    2. Require an employee survey every 6 months, then disseminate the data to determine the main issues.
    3. Set up a suggestion box – place a reward for those whose ideas are utilized
    4. Set up a meeting with purposeful icebreakers and brainstorming techniques to draw out the issues and solutions for each.
    5. If you possible, take each staff member or at least key leaders out to lunch and allow them to openly discuss concerns… take notes.
    6. Offer customer surveys every 6 months to glean more data on issues present.
    7. Bring an outside consultant or business coach in to assist in gathering data, mediate and collaborate with leaders. This method produces clearer diagnosis since it allows for confidentiality and autonomy in the process.
  3. Determining the Treatment
    1. An initial meeting with leaders and/or consultant to discuss the findings of where the issues lie and develop a strategic plan on a timeline for reversing the strife and rebuilding the team.
    2. Determine the vision that will be used for this process and include it in all training and recognition efforts.
    3. A proposal written with the time line, deadline and steps that will be taken with individuals, departments or the entire staff along with a set budget on what is to be spent in order to stay within the parameters of what will be allowed and choose the methods.
    4. A calendar of events, team requirements, incentives and new policies written and ready for distribution to all parties involved.
    5. A tracking system in place to document the progress of the changes and accomplishments as they progress. This will double as a tool for preset reviews and potential disciplinary actions.
  4. Applying the Treatment – choose any or all of the following methods depending upon the size and depth of the disease.
    1. Monthly staff meetings that are participatory with
      1. Team building exercise
      2. Individual building exercises
  • Brainstorming sessions accompanied by team driven answers
  1. Games or role play sessions that allow issues to be addressed in a fun but effective way.
  2. Short training exercises involving small rewards for efforts
  3. Break out sessions used to resolve issues, increase goal achievement and create ownership
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: On all of the above, it will be key to put people from different departments or areas together to interact in order to create a new bond and tear down the walls. All exercises should be short and very interactive to prevent any time for disagreements that could turn it into a negative experience. If necessary, put a team leader in charge of each group as a facilitator.
  1. Morale and Relationship Building Exercises
    1. Install incentive programs for teams – the teams could be by department in a fun challenge format or they could be a mix of individuals from each department pre-selected at a former meeting. Here is where you could strategically choose individuals to put together from each department on purpose to create a greater sense of “team” more widespread.
      1. Celebrate with a pizza party, restaurant outing or recognition at the next meeting or on the “wall of fame” plaque you might create to post for each month’s winners.
      2. Use winners to produce the next months challenge or activity to be won or personal parking spaces, apparel, etc..
      3. IMPORTANT NOTE: The secret will be to keep the momentum moving forward fast with new challenges leading to more new challenges in order to quickly rebuild the team within the pre-determined time line
    2. Install incentive programs for individuals
      1. Cards given for an “Excellent Job” that can be redeemed for free items, pay, gift cards, apparel, etc…
      2. Recognition at meetings for specific categories predetermined in the initial evaluation and proposal.
      3. Lunch with “the boss” or other autonomous ventures providing open communication for team members
      4. New privileges offered that were unavailable to them before.
      5. New employee benefits brought in and offered to every employee half way through the accomplishment to reward everyone at one time for the accomplishments.
    3. Final Notes
      1. Be sure to spell out to the staff/team and supervisors what you are attempting to accomplish in a way that will inspire and excite while also letting them know that there are some “ground rules” so that no one can say they didn’t know.
      2. Team and staff involvement is critical to this whole process, if they are not allowed to participate with the solutions, they will not likely take ownership and the goal of unity will not stick.
      3. Throughout the process be sure to let the staff know how they are doing individually, in teams and in meetings using lots of encouragement to create a new and evident positive atmosphere.
      4. There will be some who will not comply with the treatment, to which I have a favorite saying… “If you can’t change the people, change the people.”
      5. You will need to revise and alter the proposal along the way and that is okay as long as you try to stick to the deadline you have set and keep the momentum going.
      6. This entire process will take different amounts of time depending upon the extent of the disease and the size of the operation. Be patient and do not get discouraged. Pay attention to the positive things happening and keep track of those who are striving to move forward.
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