If you have ever been part of a great team, you know the sense of pride everyone experienced.
Winning wasn’t the result of a slogan or a pep talk. Nobody had to drill you to have pride in yourselves. It was simply a natural, intense joy that grew spontaneously and was magnified by the fact that everyone felt the same way.
Esprit de Corps
The French call this concept, esprit de corps, or the spirit of the body of people. While some think of this is a lightness of being, esprit de corps is actually about pride and satisfaction in the accomplishment of a team that works together. The words create an aura of something bigger—a purpose that reaches far beyond the members of the team into a legacy.
Jim Collins talked about this in his book Good to Great. He said that simple competence is not enough to lead a team to exceptional results: “Members of good-to-great teams tend to become and remain friends for life. The people we interviewed from the good to great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with.”
Over the past two years Chester Elton and I have been studying teamwork as we wrote our new book, The Orange Revolution. We commissioned a 350,000-person research study to determine what characteristics are found in the most profitable, productive teams.
In other words, we wanted to know how you get a team of people to love what they do.
Having FUN in the Sandbox
It’s a puzzle for many who want to instill into their teams a sense of camaraderie, unity, and an excitement for their work when there simply doesn’t seem to be any desire for it in the workforce. In every story of success we found, there was a moment when a team decided to be, well, a team—to like and respect each other, to work and play together.
After all, how would you rather spend your days? Working with a bunch of buttoned-down stiffs whose idea of fun at work is rolling up their sleeves, or with people who let loose every now and then like teammates at these legendary companies:
- Lego America who zip around campus on scooters
- Principal Financial Group where employees have set up mini golf courses in their offices
- Google which has an annual employee ski trip
- Ben and Jerry’s where factory workers take home a couple of pints of ice cream a week
- The team at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition where employees … well, we don’t know exactly what they do for fun, but we’re pretty sure it’s not “button-downed.”
If people are having fun together, they’re going to work harder, stay longer, maintain their composure in a crisis, and take better care of the organization.
Light My Fire
With the goal of taking some of the mystery out of such team esprit de corps, we compiled a list of 101 tried-and-tested ways to spark camaraderie among your teammates in our new book. Every idea was supplied to us by either a member of a revolutionary team or by the leader of a larger organization that has exceptional esprit de corps.
Here are just the first five:
1) Get your team together and ask them each to list three heroes and the characteristics they most admire about these people:
Whether Mahatma Gandhi (passion, commitment, integrity) or even the Green Lantern (the courage to be named after camping gear). Use these lists as the jumping off point for creating a team values statement together. Great follow up: Put a life-size cardboard cutout of each teammate’s hero in his or her office, and attach a sign that says, “My hero.”
2) Hold a casual Breakfast Club before work once a month:
Ask the CEO or another senior leader to casually speak to team members and answer questions face to face. Make it unique by serving something a little out there: after all, nothing says togetherness like chimichangas and orange juice.
3) Take photos of customers and use them to play “Name That Client:”
Do this with your teammates at the start of your next staff meeting or send as an email attachment. Temporarily rename the conference room in the winning employee’s name.
4) Take field trips to places where your products are used and talk to the people who use them.
This is a great way to give team members a little perspective on their work. It will also expand their understanding of how they work with other teams, products, and problem-solving.
5) Instead of sending employees to separate trainings each year, choose one and attend together.
This may mean bringing a trainer to you rather than hitting the road, but it will do more to foster unity on a subject of importance to the group.
No matter the method, all these esprit de corps ideas are about drawing closer together on the job (and sometimes off), and establishing a camaraderie that propels your group to new levels of achievement.
In other words: Lighten up, would ya?
In what ways have you taken steps to increase the esprit de corps at your company or organization? How much money, effort, or time did it really take to do these? Did you see effective increases that you can point to in terms of productivity, increased morale, or better bottom-line results? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Adrian Gostick is the VP of Publishing and Training at O.C. Tanner Recognition
He is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Carrot Principle
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The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
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