Managers lead teams, and teams are groups of people who work together to achieve a common purpose. If the task is to be completed, the manager has an important role to play. It is the same message: do not underestimate your significance.
The first step is to get the right people working together. No one is‘wrong' in themselves, but the combination may be. A team full of ideas people who love to brainstorm but fail to put anything into practice is a mistake - they will have fun, but be counter-productive. Equally, a team of implementers can go off down the wrong track out of a desire to get things done and ticked off the ‘to do' list.
Take time to consider the skills you need to ensure that the task is completed effectively. If you have to achieve this with a ready-made team, consider the personalities involved. How well do they work together? Are they co-operative people or loners? How effective are their communication skills? Do you know enough about their talents and skills? If not, speak to other people who have worked with them in the past and ask their opinion, access any available psychometric information or talk with the HR department about having an assessment done. All this takes time but will help you make the most of the skills you have, and effectively address the shortfall.
If you can build a new team specifically for the task at hand, look around the business to see if there are high-potential people who would value the challenge. Follow the process above to ensure that you are getting the right people, and do not forget to take the time to talk about the project to see if they are enthusiastic and excited at the prospect. It is also helpful to see how people relate to each other. Emotional intelligence is vital to good teamwork, and it is sometimes better to work with a team who have high EQ and less than ideal skill than to put together the perfect skill profile in a group of people who do not get on.
How do I deal with an existing team that has problems working together?
There are two elements to this:
picking up an existing team with difficulties
having difficulties with your own team.
Either way, address the issues so the team can return to effective working.
New team leader:
If you are an effective listener, talk to people and find out what is happening. Include internal customers and colleagues from other teams.
Talk with the HR department or a colleague who is known to be a good people person. Use them as a sounding-board for ideas on how to move forward.
Depending on your people skill, take the next step alone or ask your HR department to provide an internal or external facilitator. If you need to be directly involved in the conversation, definitely use a facilitator.
Have a meeting/event for the team that identifies what works well and what needs to change. Make an action plan together, including regular milestones and clear measures of success.
Carry on listening and questioning: in any team of people working together, issues will arise that must be addressed and the sooner the better.
Appreciate the effort made by everyone.
Existing team leader:
If the team is malfunctioning, first accept that you are part of the problem. This means that you will be unable to facilitate change yourself, so ask your HR department for help.
Make clear to the team that you want to hear what they have to say and that you will not hold it against them - and make sure that you don't.
Ask the facilitator to meet each person in the team separately. It is vital that everyone is heard.
Listen to the feedback, staying open to what is said, however tough. You will model the openness that is essential for change, and it will be less painful than doing nothing.
Develop a plan of action with clear measures and support systems.
Remain as positive as you can. If it is tough, make sure you have someone to talk to outside the team as a support. Remember: this is the way forward, and feedback - even when hard to hear - is the way to positive change.
Get support for continuation of the initiative. Use coaching, facilitation, team development and time together to build on the work you have done.
‘It is just one person causing the problem.' In a team, everyone has responsibility. If one person is hard to deal with, you all have to address the issue. Give straight feedback. Not speaking out is colluding with the problem.
‘It's the people mix,' meaning evident differences in cultural background, age, education, or whatever else. This can be a cop-out from dealing with the real problem. Be honest with yourself and deal with the underlying issues - see above.
‘It really is the people mix'. If the mix really does not work, you have to act. Everyone wants to do a good job, so find the right place for them. Identify the true skills and consider where they can best serve the company. If there are relationship issues, give honest feedback before individuals move on, and inform the new team leader so that they can be ready to handle the situation well.
If you believe you can move your problems to another team, you do yourself no favours. The lack of trust on all sides will cost you. Deal with the issue and you will become known for your courage and effectiveness.
Once you have the right combination of people, you can identify how you want to work together. Proximity to other people with the same objectives means that ideas will flow. At Asda the IT team experimented with moving to sit with the teams they served. It was a great idea and certainly worth a try, but in due course they realised they were losing their identity as an IT team. Now they have returned to their own area, making regular visits to their internal customers. Each morning they go into a ‘huddle' where they talk through the IT issues facing them and celebrate the successes of yesterday before going to see their customers. This way the team thrives and maintains its place in the greater team of Asda.
Team identity supports individuals, especially in large companies that can so easily be isolating. It can also lend an extra little something to friendly competition within the company, driving people to greater effort and success for the sake of the team. The team leader sets the tone and ensures that it remains a healthy place, aligned with the principles, while accessing every bit of potential for the good of both team and company.
Remember to celebrate success. Teams work hard to achieve, so encourage them to keep going by appreciating all they give. It is also a wonderful way to build camaraderie - which will in turn improve the teamwork.