BY ANDI GRAY AND ROBYN GOLDENBERG COHEN
Dilemma: We’re trying to build teams among the staff, but find that it takes a lot of time to get everyone among the staff involved and working together. Some people want to work on their own, some take charge and don’t inform their teammates, and some hang back waiting for others to figure things out or do the heavy lifting. The quiet ones are often the best team candidates, but they often get overruled or ignored by the more vocal ones.
Thoughts of the Day: Set up goals so that each group is clear about what’s to be accomplished. Teach your people to work together productively. Give the team tools to track and analyze data, and access to other performance enhancing tools. Make sure the team meets regularly to exchange information.
Sometimes a team might not mesh, or work together in an effective or productive manner, whether it’s for personal reasons outside the office or an uneven mixture of strong personalities. Regardless, setting your team on the right track is crucial to ensuring that everyone is working as harmoniously as possible. Work with managers and team leaders to identify groupings and situations that may result in unnecessary, time-wasting drama—and proactively nip any potential problems in the bud. Remind the team that they have a purpose and that there is something bigger at stake than their personal issues.
One of the best ways to get a team on the road to success is to give them a mission that includes a clear, specific, and measurable set of goals—ones that are both relevant and reachable. Point toward the horizon and paint a picture of what the team is supposed to accomplish and why their efforts matter. Give them a timeframe as well, so there’s no mistaking how long the team will be allowed to work toward the goals you’ve set.
“Everyone should be working collectively for a higher purpose: serving customers and moving the company in a forward direction to help it grow. Whatever the manner you split up the teams, make sure they have the right tools in place to reach their goals.”
Make it clear that you expect not only results but also proof that the group can overlook personal gain in favor of team results. Take people aside who don’t seem to get the message and help them get their heads in the game in a one-on-one conversation. You must be willing to have honest conversations about what you’re observing and what you expect. Tackle problems early, while they’re small, even if it means having an uncomfortable moment.
Demonstrate respect for the team. Once you’ve brought them together and set them on a mission, don’t get in the way of progress. Allow them enough space and time to learn to work together. Encourage honest, respectful dialogue.
Sometimes you may need to break larger teams into smaller work groups for effective project management and productive, efficient output. When this happens, it’s best to work with your managers to understand what skill sets are needed for a specific aspect of the project and combine forces that way. It may not necessarily be department-focused, so don’t be afraid to combine teams across different departments. The operations department might have some insight to bring to the finance department or the sales department, and vice versa. Everyone should be working collectively for a higher purpose: serving customers and moving the company in a forward direction to help it grow. Whatever the manner you split up the teams, make sure they have the right tools in place to reach their goals.
Tools for the team could include software, data storage systems, access to information, education and mentoring, and having the right skills to get the job done. When starting out, think carefully about what individual skill sets will be needed, in terms of both hard and soft skills. Will you need technicians? How about people who can communicate effectively? What do they need to know about the topic of the projects they’ll be assigned to work on? Is there anyone on the list who is skilled as a leader? Remember, the “leader” isn’t necessarily the most vocal of the group, but the person who can bring out the best in each team member. This is also a great opportunity to talk with your managers and find out what kind of tools they have in place or HR-related initiative they think would be beneficial to the overall progress of the company. They are the ones on the frontlines, so give them an outlet to think like owners. Managers who feel like they are a part of the decision-making process tend to make better and more educated decisions and suggestions. You never know who can bring what to the table if you don’t empower your employees to take ownership of their work and their jobs.
Mandate a schedule of regular meetings where team members provide updates to each other. Make sure they all have the time available in their schedules to meet. Make it a point to ensure that all members show respect for their peers by arriving on time, staying focused during meetings, and staying through the end. It’s generally better, especially in the beginning, to ask the group to limit the time spent in meetings to guarantee that no one gets overwhelmed or discouraged by the amount of time used or material covered in one setting.
Once underway, listen carefully to what team members are saying about how their project is proceeding. Is there anything missing from the team? Are they getting bogged down with problems or just working their way through the normal process of “form-storm-norm-perform.” If there are clashes of opinions or personalities, take people aside for private discussions, and remind them of the importance of meeting the team goals. If necessary, consider removing or replacing team members to achieve a better overall result.
Resist the temptation to jump in with suggestions. Learn to delegate and be comfortable with leaving it at that: Micromanaging is disruptive to the team dynamic. Ask the group if they need help, but allow team members the time and space they need to figure things out. You hired these employees for a reason, whether for skill or cultural fit, and they’re an integral part of your company. When employees feel like their employers trust them, they are more likely to take the decisions they make seriously. Giving employees a sense of ownership, and a belief in a higher purpose, can improve everyone’s professional like tenfold.
If you ask for suggestions and solutions from your employees, let them figure it out. It’s important to allow people to make mistakes and then learn how to fix them. No one is perfect at everything, and allowing employees to work through hiccups together will foster an even stronger bond while improving teamwork throughout the office. [CD0218]
Andi Gray is the founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. SHe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Goldenberg Cohen is Director of Operations and Marketing for Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at email@example.com.