Need To Do More with Less: Diagnose and Tune Your Team – Part 2
11th February 2010
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I remember studying English Literature at school, not my greatest achievement I have to say. However, I remember a phrase from one poem that we studied. I cannot remember the title or the poet, just the phrase.  As far as I remember it  went something like this: the hero of the poem – whoever he was – “ leapt onto  his horse and rode of in all directions at once”.

Does that sound like your team – riding off in all directions at once?  It’s not uncommon and its one of the reasons that as a leader there is hope. You can do more with what you’ve got, the secret is to get the team to all ride off in the same direction! Its like the guys in the picture of the yacht. If they were not all in the same place, working together, the boat would capsize and the race lost.

Many teams do not deliver the goods because they have never gelled into a team and they remain a group of individuals each riding off in a different direction. Based on the work of Pat MacMillan (The Performance Factor*) this two part article provides a simple diagnostic tool to help you assess how much of a team your team really is.

In Part 1 we looked at the impact on your team of:

  • Alignment
  • Crystal Clear Roles
  • Accepted Leadership

In this second part we will look at:

  • Effective Team Processes
  • Solid Relationships
  • Excellent Communications

Effective Team Processes

Team processes are not so much about individual tasking but are more about how the team interacts and functions as it makes decisions, solves problems and resolves conflicts. It’s about how the team members work together.

  • Do you understand the roles that each individual team member prefers and plays in your team (Take a look at Belbin Team Roles to help you )?
  • Do the team members understand the roles that both they and their colleagues individually play in the team process?
  • Given the purpose of your team, do you have any gaps in its make up in terms of the roles each member plays (For example  do you have people who are able to initiate; people who are able to coordinate; people who make sure everything is complete and so on?)
  • Does the team work effectively because its members are playing to their strengths and know how to use each other’s strengths?
  • Is the structure of your team rigid or is it flexible enough to maximise the individual and collective achievement of all members?

Solid Relationships

Solid relationships are essential in a team but they are not about friendships but professional relationships,  about being able to work together well. They are also about developing a trust in and appreciation of fellow team members so that collectively the team can deal with setbacks, misunderstandings, conflicts as well as those plain and simple bad days.

  • Are your team members reliable, doing what they say they will do?
  • Do you see your team members “doing it themselves” because that is the only way that they can be sure that the job gets done?
  • Does your team squabble and play the “blame game”?
  • Are there any personality clashes in your team?
  • On the bad days does your team pull together or does it tend to fall apart?
  • When one team member has difficulties do the others share the burden and make sure that the job gets done?

Excellent Communications

Excellent communications is a pre-requisite for all the other characteristics. To function as a High Performance Team, members must understand not only how to share information in a way that others can receive but also to assume a responsibility for ensuring that they understand the communications that they receive.

  • Do your team members communicate via email excessively even when it would be better to speak to each other?
  • Is email used well for collecting data and documenting conversations?
  • Do any of your team members get frustrated because they seem simply unable to communicate with specific team members?
  • Do any of your team members overwhelm others with words or emails in an attempt to communicate?
  • Do any of your team members always seem to miss out on what is happening or what was agreed?
  • Do you and your team members understand each other’s preferred means of receiving information?
  • Have your team ever been trained to communicate effectively?

The process of building a High Performance Team requires that the team, as a whole, take stock of itself against these characteristics. It must then, together, undertake an appropriate plan of action to achieve its full potential. This is necessarily a process of individual steps which inevitably takes time to mature, although it is possible to make rapid strides. For instance a days training on Responsible Communication can begin to have an impact the very next day.

As the team works, evaluates, learns and applies its learning, it will improve in performance as it becomes a High Performance Team. It will work more effectively, more collaboratively and refocus previously lost energy on achieving its purpose.  More than that the coherence of the team will magnify its achievement  as it begins to out perform its previous track record.

What You Can Do Today

Just as you did with the first three factors, sit down for half an hour and look at your team in the light of the questions set out in this article. Then develop an action plan. The Creative Leader Bulletin is currently running a series on how to build The Spirited Team and it will provide you with some ideas.

Then sit down with your team and do the whole assessment together as the first step to involving the team in their journey toward becoming a High Performance Team.  You can also download the whole team assessment in pdf form and subscribe to The Creative Leader Bulletin.

Did you find this helpful in gaining new insights into your team? Please let us know.

*The Performance Factor, Pat MacMillan, B&H Publishing, ISBN-8-8054-2375-3

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