Two plus two equals how much? If you’re thinking straight mathematics, it is only four. But, if you’re thinking about the productivity of combining team members in your small business, the answer could be anywhere between five and 72-plus.

In other words, the power of people working together as a team multiplies the amount of work done by individuals. If this is true (and it is), the question you should be asking yourself is, “How can I do this with my business team?” The answer is simple, but not easy.

Here are three steps to make this happen in your organization.

First, build trust within your organization. Trust is critical to creating a company where everyone works smoothly and productively together. It is the glue that builds the foundation of a great company.

One of the tools I use with my green industry clients to build trust is called a Management/Staff Behavioral Profile. Each person completes a short questionnaire, and from it comes a 23-page report.

Among other things, this report identifies a number of specific talents and behaviors. It also provides a checklist for how best to communicate with a particular person and how not to communicate with that person. It describes the individual’s ideal work environment, ways to motivate and manage him, and areas for improvement.

The way this tool works best for my clients is when I administer it with a three-part debriefing strategy. First, I debrief with the person’s manager or direct report. I then conduct a one-on-one with the individual. Finally, I do a debriefing with both the manager or direct report, and the person completing the assessment.

When used with an entire team, behavioral profiles can give every member an in-depth understanding of his peers. People discover that there are real differences in their co-workers, and that someone is not “just being a jerk” when he behaves in a certain way. Rather, it is just his work behavior style. The key is to recognize which style you are, and which style the other person you are interacting with is, and adjust your approach accordingly.

The second step to multiplying the power of your team is to help them build bonds with each other. What I mean by that is, give your employees a chance to get to know each other, beyond their basic business relationship. In the consulting and training I conduct with my clients, some of the exercises I use are designed to break down barriers quickly. For example, giving the team a chance to talk about some of the things they experienced when they were children, that helped shape them into who they are today.

After conducting one of these exercises with a company I was working with, I remember a participant remarking about how, despite having worked in his cubicle next to a fellow worker in his respective cubicle for more than twenty years, he didn’t know just how much he had in common with his workmate. After the workshop exercises had been completed, there was a new understanding and appreciation for each other that had not existed previously. These two men were now able to communicate with a much higher level of trust and understanding than before.

Another way to accomplish this as a group is by having your people participate in an activity outside of your organization. It may be volunteer hours they spend together working for a local charity or environmental cause. It could be attending a conference together, a company retreat or playing on the same recreational sports team.

It’s amazing how quickly mistaken stereotypes that people have can be erased by a few powerful group exercises or participation in well-chosen extracurricular activities. One of the reasons for this change is that the team members participating have the opportunity to see each other in a different context. They get a chance to experience each other in a more personable and humanistic way. Group exercises and activities can give team members a way to change the beliefs they have about each other.

This type of collaborative, dynamic transformation does not happen by accident, but by design. It takes time to plan out the strategies that will help you develop your team’s cohesiveness, and build trust and rapport. For some ideas on how to do this, feel free to contact me.

The third step to help your team multiply its power of working together is to throw down a challenge. Challenge your employees and managers to identify and solve problems that you as a leader may or may not be aware of. Explain to them that you want them to approach this challenge as if they owned the place.

One of the exercises I use when coaching individual managers or employees is to assign them the task of coming up with an idea that can save or earn their company an additional $15,000. It could be related to scheduling or purchasing, or it might be something that lends itself to innovation. It could be something that the company should stop doing, start doing, or do less or more of.

Regardless of the area selected, it gives the person an opportunity to tap the creative or problem-solving side of his brain.

Giving your people the opportunity to think and act as if they own the place can be a very powerful strategy. It can help them release innate talents that can resolve your organization’s problems, or identify potential business-building opportunities your company or organization is missing.

The question that some of you reading this might have is, “What happens if someone’s idea falls flat on its face?” What is critical to remember here is that you must give people room to fail. If you are going to let them try out their wings, you must provide them with the understanding that it is okay to crash land a few times. Provide guidance when necessary. The key is that they learn from their mistakes, and become able to come up with a solution that eventually solves the problem.

So, in summary, if you really want to multiply the power of your green industry team and increase your organization’s bottom line, try any or all of the following:

• Use a behavioral profile for all team members.

• Provide trust building and bonding activities.

• Give your team the opportunity to use their creative skills and come up with innovative solutions.

Please feel free to contact me if you need help in implementing any of these suggestions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is a team performance and customer-experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, contact him at: 734- 404-5909 or tom@tom borg.com or www.tomborgconsulting.com.