Team Building

Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. - Warren Bennis, Ph.D. "On Becoming a Leader"

 

 

Introduction To Teams

Leaders should not think of themselves as managers or supervisors, but as "team leaders." Thinking of yourself as a manager or supervisor places you in a position of traditional authority based solely on respect for the position, which places you in a position of power. By understanding the personal work preferences and motivations of your team members, you as an individual and not your position, can earn their real respect and trust. All the tools discussed so far in this guide, such as counseling and planning, provide the basic structure for developing a team. But to go from a group to a team requires a few extra steps.

A team is a group of people coming together to collaborate. This collaboration is to reach a shared goal or task for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. A group of people is not a team. A team is a group of people with a high degree of interdependence geared towards the achievement of a goal or completion of a task...it is not just a group for administrative convenience. A group, by definition, is a number of individuals having some unifying relationship. 

The team members are also deeply committed to each other's personal growth and success. That commitment usually transcends the team. A team outperforms a group. and outperforms all reasonable expectations given to its individual members. That is, a team has a synergistic effect...one plus one equals a lot more than two.

Team members not only cooperate in all aspects of their tasks and goals, they share in what are traditionally thought of as management functions, such as planning, organizing, setting performance goals, assessing the team's performance, developing their own strategies to manage change, and securing their own resources.

A team has three major benefits for the organization:

  • It maximizes the organization's human resources. Each member of the team is coached, helped, and led by all the other members of the team. A success or failure is felt by all members, not just the individual. Failures are not blamed on individual members, this gives them the courage to take chances. Successes are felt by every team member, this helps them to set and achieve bigger and better successes.
  • There is superior outputs against all odds. This is due to the synergistic effect of a team - a team will outperform a group of individuals.
  • There is continuous improvement. No one knows the job, tasks, and goals better than the team. To get real change, you need their knowledge, skills, and abilities. When they pull together as a team they will not be afraid to show what they can do. Personal motives will be pushed to the side to allow the team motive to succeed.

 


Most teams aren't teams at all but merely collections of individual relationships with the boss. Each individual vying with the others for power, prestige and position. - Douglas McGregor

From Group To Team

There are a number of ways to get your team started. None of them are hard to accomplish.

Be Enthusiastic - its Contagious

One way is to become enthusiastic about one aspect at a time, and initially look for a quick problem to be solved. Most teams trace their advancement to key performance oriented events that forge them together. Potential teams can set such events in motion by immediately establishing a few challenging yet achievable goals that can be reached early on. First, find a problem and start to talk about it with the team; do not delegate it to an individual or small group...make it a project for everybody. Choose a simple, but distracting work-related problem and solicit everybody's views and suggestions. Next, get the problem solved. Demand urgency against a clear target. There is no need to allocate large amounts of resource or time to this, simply raise the problem and make a fuss. When a solution comes, praise it by rewarding the whole team. Also, ensure that the aspects of increased efficiency, productivity, and/or calm are highlighted since this will establish the criteria for success. Finally, find another problem and repeat (preferably bigger).

Develop a Sense of Urgency

Team members need to believe the team has a urgent and worthwhile purpose so establish a sense of urgency and direction. This will help them know what their expectations are. The more urgent and meaningful the need to reach a goal, the more likely it is that a real team will emerge. The best teams define their performance expectations, but are flexible enough to allow changes to shape their own purpose, goals, and approach.

Set Clear Rules of Behavior

All real teams develop rules of conduct to help them achieve their purpose and performance goals. Such as attendance - "no interruptions to take phone calls", discussion - "no sacred cows", confidentiality - "personal revelations must remain among the team", analytic approach - "facts are friendly", constructive confrontation - "no finger pointing", and often the most important - "everyone does real work."

Keep Them Informed

Challenge your team with fresh facts and information. New information causes a potential team to redefine and enrich its understanding of the objectives, thereby helping the team to set clearer goals.

Grow Together

Teams must spend a lot of time together, especially in the beginning. Yet potential teams often fail to do so. The time spent together must be both scheduled and unscheduled. Creative insights as well as personal bonding require impromptu and casual interactions.

Reinforcement Works Wonders

Exploit the power of positive feedback, recognition, and reward. Positive reinforcement works as well in a team context as elsewhere. If people in the group, for example, are alert to a shy person's initial efforts to speak up and contribute, they can give her the positive reinforcement that encourages continued contributions.

Some other methods are:

  • Focus on both development and performance. Make teamwork the norm for all actions. Model teamwork in the way you conduct business and the way you interact with your colleagues.
  • Use all your leadership tools, such as coaching, counseling, mentoring, tutoring, and concentrating on improving performance.
  • Use informal processes, such as the way you communicate, showing respect, and appreciating and celebrating their achievements.
  • Your feelings must show commitment, loyalty, pride, and trust in your team.
  • Share the credit.
  • Create subcommittees for key areas and give them decision making authority.
  • Take turns having a different member facilitate or lead the meetings.
  • Talk last in discussions, after you've heard from the others.
  • Be clear about when you're expressing your own personal opinion, that of the organization, or that of the whole team.
     
Leadership shows itself  in the inspired action of team members. Traditionally, organizations have  assessed leaders by their actions and behaviors. But, the best way to assess a leader would be to assess the leadership by the degree to which people around leaders are inspired. It is this inspiration that leads organizations on to success.

 


 

Elements of a Team

As a leader, there are a number of elements that you must help to create in a team. Teams learn and demonstrate behaviors that are not exhibited by groups. These characteristics represent the essential elements of an effective team. Your team will not form on its own. There's almost always someone who was the catalyst who brought the people together. This someone must be you. It's okay for you to be the focal point at the beginning but at some point the ownership of the group needs to shift to the team as a whole.

The elements that must be in a team are:

  • A common team goal - Although your team might have a number of goals, one of them must stand out. For example, "To produce 10% more widgets than last year without hiring additional personnel." A supporting goal might be, "To provide 40 hours of yearly training for each member." Everyone will know, agree upon, and committed to accomplishing the team goal.
  • Productive participation of all members - This has four levels:
    • Contributing data and knowledge.
    • Sharing in the decision making process and reaching consensus.
    • Making the decision.
    • Making an imposed decision work.
  • Communication - Open, honest, and effective exchange of information between members.
  • Trust - Openness in critiquing and trusting others.
  • A sense of belonging - Cohesiveness by being committed to an understood mandate and team identity.
  • Diversity - This must be valued as an asset. It is a vital ingredient that provides the synergistic effect of a team.
  • Creativity and risk taking - If no one individual fails, then risk taking becomes a lot easier.
  • Evaluation - An ability to self correct.
  • Change compatibility - Being flexible and assimilating change.
  • Participatory leadership -  Everyone must help lead to one degree or another.

 


Teamwork

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Steps to Team Problem Solving

Step 1 - Define the goal or objective. A team needs to know what to focus on. You can lay out the basic goal, reduce workplace accidents for example, but it is important to let the team define and expand the goal.

Step 2 - Not only must the "what" be solved, but also the "why." The team should identify what's in it for the organization and the team to achieve this objective. This is best done by asking "What is the benefit?" Also, help them to create a specific target that builds enthusiasm. Make achieving the objective sound appealing.

Step 3 - Define the obstacles that will prevent the team from achieving what it wants. Focus on internal obstacles, not on the external environment, such as competitors and laws. It will be too easy to say, "We can't do anything about it." Internal factors are within their reach.

Step 4 - The team now plans its actions. Lay out four or five concrete steps, and write them down. Not "we'll try" actions, like "We'll try to serve customers better." You want actions that can be tracked and monitored. You cannot measure a "try" action. You want observable behaviors like "Greet all customers with a smile and a good morning or good afternoon," or "Customers will be served within 1 minute upon their arrival."

Step 5 - Now its time to change the obstacles that were defined in step three. The team needs to formulate actions to address.

Step 6 - Take action now! This is most critical step. It is what differentiates an effective team from a group...groups have lots of meetings before taking action - teams get it done! Get commitment from individual team members to take action on specific items.

 


 

Team-player Styles

As a leader, you want a wide variety of team members - Contributors, Collaborators, Communicators, and Challengers. Although we all have all the four types within us, one or two of them will be more dominate than the others. Having a team that displays all of the four types, will provide you with a more well-rounded team.

Contributors are task oriented members who enjoy providing the team with good technical information and data. They push the team to set high standards. Although they are dependable, they sometimes becomes too bogged down in the details and miss the big picture. They are responsible, authoritative, reliable, proficient, and organized.

Collaborators are goal directed members who see the vision, mission, and goal of the team. They are flexible and open to new ideas, willing to pitch in and work outside their defined role, and to share the limelight with other team members. They are big picture persons who sometimes fail to give enough attention to the basic team tasks or to consider individual needs. They are forward looking, goal directed, accommodating, flexible, and imaginative.

Communicators are process oriented who are effective listeners and facilitators of involvement, conflict resolution, consensus building, feedback, and the building of an informal relaxed climate. They are "people persons", who sometimes see a process as an end in itself, may not confront other team members, or may not give enough emphasis to making progress toward the team goals. They are supportive, considerate, relaxed, enthusiastic, and tactful.

Challengers are adventurers who question the goals, methods, and ethics of the team. They are willing to disagree with the leader and higher authorities, and encourage the team to take well-conceived risks. Most people appreciate the value of their candor and openness, but sometimes they may not know when to back off on an issue or become self-righteous and try to push the team too far. They are honest, outspoken, principled, and ethical.

Although your first instinct might tell you to select people like yourself, or to exclude one of these groups, this is not what you want. For example, having a group with no challengers would be just that, a group, not a team. You would be surrounded with a group of "yes people", who never question anything, they just blindly go where told. On the other hand, a group composed of all challengers would never get anything accomplished. It takes all styles to truly function as a team. 


 

Team Leadership

Keep the purpose, goals, and approach relevant and meaningful. 

All teams must shape their own common purpose, goals and approach. While a leader must be a working member of the team who contributes, she also stands apart from the team by virtue of her position as leader. A team expects their leader to use that perspective and distance to help them clarify and commit to their mission, goals, and approach. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty (lead by example), but always remember what you are paid to do (get the job done and grow your people).

Build commitment and confidence. 

You should work to build the commitment and confidence level of each individual and the team. Effective team leaders are vigilant about skills. Their goal is to have members with technical, functional, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal, and teamwork skills. To get there, encourage your people to take the risks needed for growth and development. You can also challenge team members by shifting their assignments and role patterns. Get them out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone, but not so far that they go into the fear zone:

As long as we stay in our comfort zone, change or learning becomes difficult as we have nothing pushing (motivating) us. If we go to far out of our comfort zone we enter the fear zone where no learning takes place because of the extreme discomfort of it. When we enter the learning zone, we become slightly uncomfortable as we are slightly out of place. We therefore change (learn) to fit in .

Manage relationships with outsiders. 

Team leaders are expected, by the people outside as well as inside the team, to manage much of the team's contacts and relationships with the rest of the organization. You must communicate effectively the team's purpose, goals, and approach to anyone who might help or hinder it. You must also have the courage to intercede on the team's behalf when obstacles that might cripple or demoralize the team get placed in its way.

Create opportunities for others. 

One of your challenges is to provide performance opportunities, assignments, and credit to the team and the people in it. You cannot grab all the best opportunities, you must share it with your team. This will help you to fulfill one of your primary responsibilities as a leader - growing the team.

Create a vision. 

The vision is the most important aspect of making a team successful. Teams perishes when they don't clearly see the vision - why they are doing what they do and where they are going. You must motivate the team toward the fulfillment of the goals. Workers want to be successful and they know the only way to do that is by following and achieving great goals.

Are you ready to be a team leader? 

Then consider the following Team building Checklist:

  • You are comfortable in sharing leadership and decision making with your employees.
  • You prefer a participative atmosphere.
  • The environment is highly variable or changing quickly and you need the best thinking and input from all your employees.
  • Members of you team are (or can become) compatible with each other and can create a collaborative rather than a competitive environment.
  • You need to rely on your employees to resolve problems.
  • Formal communication channels are not sufficient for the timely exchange of information and decisions.

 


 

Problems in Teams

  • Leaders select too many members in their own image. As a result, teams become unbalanced with too many people overlapping in the same areas, while there are skill gaps in other areas.
  • Leaders do not understand their own strengths, abilities, and preferences.
  • Individuals in unbalanced teams feel their talents and abilities are not being used.
  • Leaders feel they do not know how to motivate people. This is because they do not know them and their individual needs.
  • Team members feel that the team does not work smoothly. They believe individual work preferences conflict rather than complement each other.
     
Teams tend to go through three main stages - chaotic to formal to skillful. In the chaotic phase, teams believe the objects are very formal and do not deviate far from them. Each member assumes all the other members have a clear understanding of the objectives. They do not spend a lot of time planning for the tasks and objects at hand. They may generate a lot of ideas, but many or lost because members fails to listen or reject them without fully comprehending them. The leader's main function is to try to keep order within the team and to ensure tasks are accomplished.

The next stage is the formal phase, where specific roles are allocated to each team member. There are many rules and protocols to ensure that things are orderly and run smoothly, to include rules for agreeing on objectives and planning approaches to tasks. The leader's primary purpose is to ensure that all the members adhere to the set procedures, do not argue, and keep to the point.

In the final stage, skillful, set procedures are rare. All members feel that they are in it together and feel a shared sense of responsibility for the teams success or failure. Members enjoy working together and find tasks fun and productive. The leader is democratic and collaborative.

Its time to build that team if you are facing the following problems:

  • Loss of productivity or output.
  • Complaints.
  • Conflicts between personnel.
  • Lack of clear goals.
  • Confusion about assignments.
  • Lack or innovation or risk taking.
  • Ineffective meetings.
  • Lack of initiative.
  • Poor communication.
  • Lack of trust.
  • Employees feel that their work is not recognized.
  • Decisions are made that people do not understand or agree with.
     
Sometimes it helps to bring the team in on the team building process. First have a diagnostic meeting. This meeting should be off-site so that there are no interruptions and to show them you are truly committed to building a team. This part of the process is not to fix any problems but to bring forth what is good and bad with the team in order to formulate future plans. You need to find out what is working or not working and where they are with their working relationships with each other, other teams, and you. If the team is large, it might help to break them down into smaller discussion groups in order to have more lively discussions or to pair them up and them report back to the team. Consider the first part of the diagnostic meeting as a brainstorming session. Do not throw out any problems or ideas that you feel is irrelevant. After all the data has been made public, have the team determine what is correct and relevant. Next categorize the issues, such as planning, scheduling, resources, policies, tasks or activities the group must perform, interpersonal conflict, etc. Once all the information has been categorized, develop action plans to solve the problems. And finally and most importantly, follow up on the plans to ensure they are being accomplished.

 


 

References

  1. Bodwell, Donald J.  (1996, 1997). High Performance Team
  2. IBM Corporation (1993). Ideas on Teams and Teamwork.
  3. Katzenbach, Jon R. and Smith, Douglas K. (1986). The Wisdom of Teams, Harvard Business Review Press.
  4. Margerison, C. and McCann, D. (1985). How to Lead a Winning Team, MCB University Press.
  5. Wellins, Richard & Byham, William & Wilson, Jeanne (1991). Empowered Teams: Creating Self-Directed Work Groups That Improve Quality, Productivity, and Participation. Jossey-Bass

 

 
  Notes
Created May 11, 1997. Last update - January 16, 2002.
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Donald R. Clark
donclark@nwlink.com
http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadtem.html