Teams - your most powerful resource?
Harness the power of your teams
It’s an idea we tend to take for granted, that a team of people is more powerful than a group of individuals. It can be true, if we have a team and we make good use of the team’s capabilities.
Diversity is a key factor in team success. When people bring different perspectives to team discussions, a whole range of ideas begin to open up. Of course, it isn’t enough just to have a diverse people in the team. You need to include everyone, encourage open communication, build trust and have agreed ways of dealing with difficult situations.
At CLS, we use a team coaching approach for a variety of situations. Team coaching is a specific way to help existing teams align their working relationships, facilitate better communication and deepen understanding of how the team can improve their working style. In Leadership Development programs, we sometimes use a particular type of team coaching approach, to create peer support and learning transfer. Team coaching is highly effective for helping a good team stay on track and giving them opportunity to reflect on their actual and possible performance.
How do you create such a team? It always starts with the foundations. See how many of the basics you can tick off in your team. Knowing what can be improved is always a good place to begin.
When is a team not a team?
Not every group is a team. The defining characteristic of a team is shared objectives. If you belong to a group of people and at least some of your objectives are shared by everyone, then you are probably in a team. If you all have different objectives, then it is unlikely the group is actually a team.
It is important to check. Assumptions will often be made about teamwork. Those may not be correct assumptions to make, if you are a group rather than a team. There are also times when everyone in the group has the same objectives but they do not work together to achieve them. A sales team may actually be in competition with each other and have no incentive to work as a team.
How important is it for the team to work as a team, to deliver organizational goals?
Teamwork makes a team work
So you have a team. Does the team work as a team? There are some basics you can expect to see in every team. Some are obvious, some less so. Do you have regular team meetings? How well do those meetings work – does everyone get the chance to contribute? Does the team build relationships outside of normal work conversations? A team of people who get to know one another, are more likely to trust one another. Psychological safety comes with trust. Do the people in the team like working with each other, or at least trust the people they work with? Finally, is the team a happy team? This may seem a strange question, yet happiness at work is a positive attribute. When we are happy at work we are engaged, contribute more, are more likely to pitch in when there is a real need and we will better support our colleagues.
Are you in a thinking team?
Thinking teams are problem solvers. They actively look at what is going on around them, then work together to come up with ideas, solutions and fresh thinking on how to address the problems they see. They support each other and also understand that the team is part of a bigger system. This is the kind of team that is agile, flexes when change comes along – whether that’s internal restructure or COVID – and they are able to take it all in their stride. The team know that each person is different and they try to remember that in the way they talk and work. A thinking team will aim to play to each person’s strengths, support one another when someone is having a bad day and be open with each other. They have an agreed way of dealing with conflict and disagreement, they share learning and aim to improve both the way they work and the quality of what they do. In short, a thinking team is a great place to be.
Here is a short checklist you can print off and give to everyone in the team. When you pool all the answers, how much agreement is there? It will be fairly easy to see what needs work. It will also help you see if it is a “real” team or a collection of individuals.
As a team leader – whatever level of team you lead – you can share in helping the team develop. That may mean stepping up to be more active in your leadership role. It may mean stepping back and giving more responsibility to the team.
Leading a team is a challenge, however good the team. You will try to adapt your style to fit the needs of each person, help people with very different styles work together, and make sure you all deliver on your objectives. If you or your leaders want to sharpen their core skills, then do get in touch. We will be happy to have that conversation with you.