If you’re familiar with Health Enhancement Systems, you know we’re big believers in teams for boosting participation and enhancing wellness program success. In fact, we’ve built social support elements into our campaigns long before it was a trend.

But the emphasis on teams for all manner of project work within wellness and other HR initiatives can produce exactly the opposite of results you’re hoping for. The goal for bringing the team together in the first place — to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity — can get lost when:

  • You don’t need a team. It seems obvious, but in some organizations the first thought when a new challenge comes up is to put a team together to work on it — without really considering necessity. Because assigning teams has become so ingrained in the culture, everyone’s afraid to ask the obvious question: Do we really need a team for this?
  • Members don’t prepare. Once a team project is underway and everyone understands the goal and their role, it’s vital that members do their homework before a team meeting. Nothing sucks the energy out of a team more than having to help the laggards catch up or giving them the same task this week as last.
  • Individuals are distracted. There was a time when it was embarrassing to get caught in a daydream during a team meeting. Now there are built-in, almost encouraged, distractions like IM, texting, tweets, mobile web browsing, and cell calls. Having to review the last point because someone was distracted is an enormous waste. Set boundaries and enforce them from the start for all team meetings.
  • Everyone has an equal voice. The notion that team members with different background, experience, and education should have an equal say on all decisions is inefficient at best and disastrous at worst. You don’t let your 8-year-old have an equal say in family financial decisions… and you shouldn’t allow a novice opinion on the same footing as an expert’s in business decisions.
  • A strong personality takes over. Numerous studies have proven that the first person to speak in a meeting is likely to sway the group’s opinion in their direction — particularly if they have a strong personality and/or are higher in rank than other participants. If those folks don’t recognize this and back off, the group’s collective strength never comes through.
  • Everyone is praised for the group’s success, regardless of their contribution. Let’s face it, sometimes people on teams are just occupying a chair. When they receive the same accolades as those who’ve put real sweat into the project, it can be demoralizing. 

There’s tremendous potential to achieve the organization’s wellness objectives and other business goals through appropriate use of teams — but only if you do it right.

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