Great Bosses Spur Teamwork


I define a great boss as a person who creates and maintains a safe, inspiring work environment where talented, engaged employees THRIVE.  I have found that within work environments where great bosses like this are found, employees perform better (40% or more), serve customers better (40% or more) and produce higher profits (30% or more.) Sound appealing?

The characteristics of GREAT bosses include Growth, Relationships, Excellence, and Accountability.  A great boss also inspires Teamwork.


Cooperative interaction builds trust and respect among team membes more than competition does. Great bosses create an environment that encourages team members to share information, skills, and support.  They also expect their team members to demonstrate “good citizenship” values, not just meet tangible performance standrds.  They find ways to measure cooperation and team improvement, making it just as important as individual success.

When hiring, most companies look for individual skills sets and performance history. While this is important, it does not always lead to a well-functioning team.

This practice reminds me of a scene from the classic show, M*A*S*H where Major Houlihan was speaking with a nurse who was studying to become a doctor. In essence, she says to the eager-but-lacking-in-people-skills nurse,

“Your skills are among the best I’ve ever seen. But you have a lot to learn about getting along with other people.”

It is important to discern what type of team player a candidate will be. A great boss has high standards for how a team member will interact with others on the team. The don’t tolerate those who discount others–even if they are a strong performer themselves.  They will monitor and coach, and if they do not see improvement, they may lovingly “set them free.”

Here are a few ways that great bosses I have experienced, observed, and studied spurred teamwork among and across their teams.

They measure team contributions first.   Individual contributions come second. Team performance is considered just as important as individual performance.  This may mean separate metrics or a completely different scoreboard so that everyone can see how the team is progressing as a whole.

They align incentives. In most of the organization I’ve worked with, the compensation system rewards individuals more than the team.  Great bosses work to change that so both individual contributions and team contributions are rewarded.  This can take some work to do, but it is worth it.

They improve both process and product. Great bosses formalize norms so everyone’s voice is heard. They rotate the team through a “process observer” role so that any team member could debrief the team on how they are doing as a whole.

They extend team performance daily. A great boss leads the team into being more excited by beating their best performances than beating other teams. Then, they celebrate the contributions to the overall company.

How about you? Did your great bosses inspire teamwork? Are you a great boss that inspires teamwork?

S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading and managing successful business teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Under Chris’ guidance, culture clients have consistently boosted their customer satisfaction and employee engagement rates by 40 percent or more and results and profits by 35 percent or more.