Cooperate- To act or work with another or others: to act together or in compliance; to associate with another or others for mutual benefit.Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Great communication skills and a conciliating attitude within a team can lead to the third level of team building which is cooperation. Cooperation is the idea of simply getting along. Often times cooperation has a very positive connotation, but in team building is in one of the base levels. Too often in team work cooperation is more related to compromise and resentment than in actual team building.

Back before seat belt and car seat laws the story circulated about the little boy standing the passenger seat of the car as his mother drove along. When the mother noticed him standing she immediately ordered him to sit down. He promptly refused. She gave the directive again and again the child refused. The mother was now to the ultimatum stage, “Sit down or else…”

The little boy grudgingly sat down but commented audibly, “I may sitting on the outside but I’m standing on the inside.”

Cooperation in team work is often the same. Team members know they have to get along, but because of many influences and feelings may do so grudgingly. When this is the case the resentment will eventually surface and along the way the effectiveness of the team will be compromised and even worse- sabotaged.

For most the word “cooperate” implies compromise. In fact many would believe that to cooperate means that one must give up something to be able to get something. As team members one must compromise to get along, cooperate, with others. With this negative view of cooperation it is easy to see why it is near the bottom of the team work levels. It is also easy to see why leaders begin for cooperation often meet brick walls.

Here are three steps to aid in positive cooperation:

  1. Value seen- This simply means that it must be clearly communicated why cooperation is valuable. It must be clearly communicated so that each individual can see how their value is increased through cooperative effort. If the cooperation is communicated as being for the benefit of the corporation of even for everyone as a whole, individuals will be reluctant to follow through. Each member must perceive how their value is increased through cooperative measures.
  2. Value added- This means that every individual has to see how their individual increased value adds to the value of the team’s work. This value adds to each member s not only an individual contributor but as an actual team member. Not just another part, but a member, contributor, and participant.
  3. Value created-This means that as each individual benefits from cooperation, the whole benefits. As each individual grows, so grows the team. It has to be communicated effectively and often that value can be created and grown when each person cooperates in a manner in which individual growth precipitates team growth.

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