Volume 10: Excellent in Team Work

Excellent in Team Work
Working together as a Team to create a more persuasive product, teams can be both beneficial and challenging at the same time. Sharing work can be less than ideal if the team members don’t work well together. In most team settings, you’ll have a leader and one or two other people who share the workload for the entire team. This can lead to pent-up feelings of resentment on the part of the worker bees, and sometimes the other team members can feel left out. Teams that work well together can greatly increase workplace productivity and creates a more cohesive company culture.
Here are seven tips that will help your company’s teams work well together.

  • Communicate. Obviously, this is one of the most important elements to a strong team performance. Keeping the communication clear, open, honest, and respectful will allow team members to express their feelings in a way that prevents a buildup of hidden anger or distrust. Encourage team members to ask questions and listen to one another. This helps to build better team dynamics and stronger relationships.
  • Respect individuality. When working with teams, it’s important for superiors and managers to understand the importance of individuality. When a group of people with all different skills and personalities are put together to accomplish a certain task, understanding what each team member brings to the table is critical. Each team member needs to contribute his or her strengths in order for the team to function as one.
  • Encourage creativity. Creative input should be encouraged from every team member on every project. Negative comments such as,”what a dumb idea” should be discouraged, and a supportive environment that is open to new ideas should be cultivated. Brainstorming should be seen as a time to throw ideas out without placing judgement. The best ideas can be culled out later.
  • Include a mix of genders. This might seem like a strange tip for creating a great team, but women’s social skill tend to be a little stronger than men’s. Including women is one way of prioritizing social skills, which have a direct impact on team performance. Studies have shown that companies with female board members have better share price performance than those who are men-only.
  • Hold trust-building exercises. One way to enhance team spirit is to set aside time for trust-building exercises. If trust and support are seen as an important part of company culture, they are more likely to grow. And teams that appear more trustworthy have been shown to perform better than those who lack trust. Trust is a reciprocal feeling and one bad apple can really spoil the bunch.
  • Define roles. The recent Occupy Wall Street political movement was seen as unsuccessful because no real leaders emerged. A key idea behind the movement when it was first formed was that no one would lead and everyone would all work on the same level. While this democratic approach was laudable, it created confusion and zero teamwork, since no one was there to lead. Effective teams require clearly-defined roles so that everyone knows what he or she is responsible for. This creates better team cohesion and productivity.
  • Don’t settle. The last piece of advice deals with how you staff your team. Know what you want in terms of team members, and keep looking until you find the candidates that are a perfect fit. If one person is wrong for the job, it can throw off the entire team dynamic.
  • Managing teams of individuals with different kinds of personalities and skills can be challenging, but following these tips will help you make the most of the teams you have, and will help even more in setting up future teams for your company.
Involving people on broad issues is motivational. Never underestimate people. Their views can enhance everything: methods, standards, processes and overall effectiveness.

Remember, managers are not paid to have all the ideas that are necessary to keep their section working well in a changing world, but they are paid to make sure that there are enough ideas to make things work and go on working.
Use your people and make it clear to them that you want and value their contributions.
Underpinning Success
Some matters are of particular importance to the way a manger and staff work together. This is not the place to review the whole management process, but the following four areas are key and must be addressed correctly early on if results are to follow. They are:
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Development
  • Performance Appraisals
A quick look at each of these in turn.

Setting Goals
"If you don't know where you are going any road will do"
For all its familiarity and common sense this maxim is worth reiterating. No one and no organisation works well without clear objectives. The responsibility for setting many of them may well be yours.

Objectives will only be clear if they are SMART:
  • Specific so that they are clearly understood and no misunderstanding is possible
  • Measurable so that everyone knows whether they have hit them, or not
  • Achievable because if they are simply pie in the sky they will be ignored and you, and any future process of objective setting, will lose credibility
  • Realistic in the sense that they must logically fit within the broad picture and be a desirable way of proceeding
  • Timed without clear timing they will become meaningless
The objectives you set must condition and direct what your people do. Make sure everyone has clear goals and they are committed to achieving them.

Many of the tasks to be done involve the complex process of people working together in a co-ordinate way over time. When this is headed up by you or involves you, make sure that the project is:
Carefully and systematically planned and organised
  • Effectively executed
  • Precisely monitored
  • Fine-tuned so that contingencies and changes are accommodated
Brought in on time, on spec and if appropriate, on budget
Your management of others will be jeopardised if the way you organise the work of the section in any way falters.

Ongoing Development
Nothing is more important to people than their success. Time and again you hear people say something like, "Above all, I want to work with a manager from whom I can learn." The development of your people is not something to ignore or leave to training departments. The responsibility is yours. Make sure people have the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to do the jobs you want and to do them well. Development is not only about correcting weaknesses, it is about upgrading and taking people forward, not least to keep up with change.

Tell your people that you:
  • Recognise that their development is important
  • Will help them gain experience and extend skills, and
  • Create a visible system so to do
As the old saying goes you can either, "have five years' experience or one year's experience multiplied by five." People want the former. Show them you are the means to achieve it.

Use the Development Cycle
  • Analyse the job (what is needed to do it)
  • Analyse the person (their competencies)
  • Look ahead, anticipate what new skills, etc. the job might necessitate in the future
  • Define the gap - what must be done to create a good fit between the person and the job
  • Specify development activity, methods, budget and priorities
  • Implement action and monitor results
This is a rolling cycle. Keep clear records, make sure everyone is reviewed in this way and create a culture in which people value development and what it brings. Part of your job is helping people to learn.

Development is sufficiently important to people (as well as being important in its own right) for you to address the process and give out the right messages about it. You may, sensibly, not want to send everyone off on a course so consider other actions, asking:
  • Should development be on the agenda for meetings?
  • Can anything be done on-the-job? (In any case, a key part of the manager's personal responsibility for development)
  • Can any ongoing actions be instigated now? (A simple monthly lunchtime session, perhaps)
The culture of an organisation in terms of its attitude to training and development is important to people. Their view of it is, in part, dependent on you. Send the right signals.

Performance Appraisals
In many organisations appraisals are poorly conducted and rated unhelpful by those who are appraised. Appraisals should:
  • Be constructive, helpful and motivational
  • Focus on the future
  • Be a genuine opportunity for both parties to ensure that the period ahead (year, quarter, etc.) goes well, perhaps better than the last
  • Link to action plans for the future
  • Study your organisation's appraisal system and learn how to conduct an effective appraisal meeting. This is good use of management time. Apart from helping you achieve results in a practical sense; it will also position you as a competent manager and differentiate you from others. 


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