We’re all familiar with having personal development plans and being assessed on our individual behaviours, but how about doing the same thing in teams?
So often there’s an assumption that because we’re a team we’ll behave properly and effectively and there’s no real need to monitor the impact and effects of our collective behaviours. The trouble is, we all too easily operate according to our individual and team default behaviours – the ways we’re comfortable with and used to, but these aren’t always the most effective ways of functioning, so what can we do about that?
Keeping Your Finger On The Pulse
1. Define what an effective team, your team, should behave like
It’s surprising how many teams never actually sit down and define how they ought to behave. Having goals and objectives is all well and good as a measure of how you’re performing against targets, but what about how you’re behaving as people and as a team? Is the way you behave helping or hindering progress? If you’ve never defined how you should behave, how do you know either way?
Pick five or six values that you want to adhere to, or create a really inspiring values statement that sums up how you all feel and constantly come back to it and see how you’re measuring up.
2. Internal Feedback
Team effectiveness surveys are a fabulous way to take the team’s temperature and signal commitment to the improvement process. Not only are they easy to set up and administer, they’re a rich source of data to add into your development plans.
First and foremost, the team should complete an internal survey. As with defining your behaviours, it gives you a place to start, a benchmark to measure your progress against. How do you feel you’re doing? What are you doing well, what are you not doing so well? How are these things manifesting themselves within the team and beyond?
Focus on your behaviours and the ways in which these impact your performance as individuals and as a team. What’s the team’s colour mix? How might this be affecting the dynamics of the team? Is everyone being heard? Who’s got their head down and just doing their own thing? Where are the friction points? Who or what are they about?
3. External Feedback
How does everyone else feel you’re doing? Bosses, peers, direct reports, subordinates, customers, suppliers, other teams – there’s a wealth of information out there just waiting to be fed into your team mix.
Ideally, external feedback will be raw data as well as rolled up data; face to face meetings as well as online surveys; verbatim comments as well as generalised sentiments; actual scores as well as median scores. Many a wise word was lost in an averaged-out result.
4. Revisit Previous Commitments
Now we’re getting down to it. The measure of the truly committed team is the extent to which its members actually act on the feedback they’ve been given. If you have the courage to ask the questions in the first place, and people have the grace to answer them, then the least you can do is act on what they tell you.
Dig that old feedback out. What’s it telling you? What did you action? What did you ignore or not get round to? What’s that telling you? How does this fit in with what you know about yourselves? What light can your coloured-up team wheel shed on the matter? How can you bring your collective strengths to bear on the issue?
Think of the power that can be generated by a team demonstrating its commitment to improvement and visibly (publicly) acting on the feedback it’s received it can be phenomenal.
Managing By Wandering Around – one of the truly great ways – probably the great way – to know what’s going on out there. You want to know what? Shappening, what people really think of you as a person, as a team, as a business? Go and ask them. Then listen. Really listen to what they have to say.
This is the logical accompaniment to points 2 and 3, above. Surveys are wonderful for keeping it tight and giving you something measurable to work on, but there’s no substitute to hearing it from the horse’s mouth.
Talk to anyone and everyone, not just your direct reports. Skip a level and ask staff further down the line what they think. Ask your customers, your suppliers, teams that have strong links with you or depend on you. Take in the office atmosphere as you wander around, the mood on the shop floor. How are people feeling? How are they behaving? Is there an air of efficiency, happiness, optimism, commitment, responsibility? What are customers saying in their letters and phone calls? What does this say about the signals you’re giving out, the business ethos you’ve created?
Keeping The Momentum Going
1. Have The Will To See It Through
So often, individuals and teams commit to action and then fail to act. Happens all the time. Why? Because they were never really committed to action in the first place. It takes great leadership, mutual respect, and bags of commitment to the cause for teams to do anything other than function as they always have. Whether you’re a star act or a bunch of people muddling through, if you haven’t got the will, you’ll never find the way. And where does a sizeable chunk of any team’s will come from? The leader, of course.
Fundamentally THE most important issue, does the boss have the skill and the will to help the team fulfil its potential?
– does the team leader have both the task and the people skills to develop the team’s members?
– is the leader strong enough and secure enough to expose themselves and their team to the improvement process?
Lip service won’t do it. The occasional training course won’t do it. Sporadic feedback won’t do it. Strong and inspired leadership, on the other hand, will.
3. Hire An External Coach
Andy Murray has a coach. Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona all have a coach. Why? Because you can’t do it, watch it and analyse it at the same time.
When it comes to understanding the dynamics of an entire team, independent eyes and ears that know what they’re looking for see and hear so much more. A good coach isn’t afraid to say what’s on their mind, because they have no axe to grind. A well-timed, well-aimed observation from a coach can hit the mark in a way that fellow team members may find it hard to do.
What’s more, if the team’s focus is shifting or their concentration is flagging, an external coach can bring you right back bang on track before the whole thing falls away.
4. One Good Idea
Here’s a great way to rack up some points; keep a constant eye out for anything that will help you to improve. Go to other team meetings or competitor companies and watch how other teams work. Visit teams with different knowledge- and skill-sets, different ways of doing things, and pick up just one good idea that they do better than you do. Go in pairs; it’s good for bonding and two heads are nearly always better than one.
5. Be Accountable
Make a point of holding yourselves accountable for improving the way you operate. This is more than half the point in asking people for feedback; make a commitment to them that you will actually do something about it. More than that, say what you’ll do and when you’ll do it by. Ask them for feedback on how you’re doing. If you manage by wandering about, the chances are you’ll know without even asking; you’ll hear it, feel it and smell it in the air. Try it! it’s an amazing and enlightening experience.
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