Everyone wants an enjoyable work environment, and as leaders in your campus recreation departments, the first step in this direction is creating a team atmosphere. Maureen McGonagle has been the director of Campus Recreation at DePaul University for 21 years. With that experience, she has broken down the keys to creating a team atmosphere that has helped her department thrive.
Create a Culture
The word culture is often mentioned when speaking about teamwork. But what does it mean to create a culture? McGonagle suggests first identifying what you want your culture to include, then take action.
“If you want your organizational culture to include respect and teamwork, then you need to be proactive in creating an environment where these things happen,” said McGonagle. “We try to be very clear in our expectations and our priorities. For example, if you say X is important, but you reward Y, you will get Y. I am cognizant of the importance of always matching my actions to my words – nothing erodes trust quicker than showing a lack of integrity.”
Once you identify what you desire your culture to include, it’s also important to think about what you don’t want to include. One of the things McGonagle has discovered that does not benefit the culture of her team is micro-managing.
“If we want our staff to perform at their best, we need to trust them,” said McGonagle. “We need to start with training them well, providing the resources and support necessary to do their jobs, and clearly communicate expectations — then, trust them. If expectations aren’t met, talk to them, hold them accountable and move forward.”
A team who works hard and achieves together should celebrate together. McGonagle describes how celebrating encourages all members of the team to support each other and naturally enhances team culture.
“Even high-functioning teams need to take time to celebrate their efforts and their accomplishments,” elaborated McGonagle. “While I think it is critically important for the leader to set the tone with recognizing and appreciating staff contributions and efforts, I also think it is important every person on the team be expected and actively encouraged to be proactively supportive of each other. My team has created some traditions which are important to us. Shared experiences, in particular, are powerful in creating a team atmosphere.
Keep it Real
Creating a positive team atmosphere is a continual work-in-progress. It is important for everyone on the team to know everyone will make mistakes and sometimes team members get frustrated. This is where building a history of support will hold your team together and strengthen your desired culture.
“Personally, I tell staff it is important to me they have a positive work experience, and I will do what I can to create the conditions for that to happen,” said McGonagle. “Then I do my best to demonstrate through my actions. But they are also an integral part of the equation and need to be as devoted to the team as I am to them.”
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