In a recent blog, I promised to dedicate some time to the topic of building an effective team. I stressed the importance of giving team relationship adequate attention and outlined a couple of risks if the relationship is neglected.
In my work as a facilitator, there is one question that I get a lot. So what should you do if your team isn’t in sync? The answer depends on several factors, which include: the team, the problem (or pain, as we call it), and the cause of the pain.
It’s often best to start by unearthing the potential contributing factors to the problem. Have there been changes in the work environment? What are the demands that the team is being challenged with? Has there been a change in personnel? Has the personnel change impacted the group dynamic? There are endless scenarios that I could highlight here, but the important thing to remember is this – try to get to the root cause so you’re not just treating the symptoms, but you also understand the disease. You may or may not be able to change the cause, but understanding where the team’s pain is coming from can be important as you begin to work through the challenges.
I facilitated a staff retreat several months ago that provides a great example. In this customer’s scenario, staff changes had taken place at an executive level. This had resulted in a great deal of upheaval. The trickle down effects were additional personnel changes and a new methodology for running the business. New processes were put into place, and old, long-ignored processes were reinstated. No longer could an employee do something because “that’s the way we did it before.”
These changes created a new team dynamic. Some of the team members were excited by the new challenges and the potential for growth and success. Others resisted the change and were fearful of what was going to happen next.
When we designed and then delivered the retreat, we kept all of the above factors in mind. We spent two days focusing on the rebuilding of this team. Part of the process involved sharing information. This alleviated some of the fears of the unknown that the team members were experiencing. We also provided new tools in communication and leadership to equip the team to meet the business standards being set by the new director. Lastly, we combined social events and facilitated discussions to allow people to dialogue and solidify their relationships. At the conclusion of the event, definite progress had been made. The participants were open in their sharing, and the atmosphere was positive.
This is just one example of how a team decided to navigate a major transition. The solution for another team scenario could be completely different. As a leader, you might want to begin by taking the “pulse” of your team. How’s the team’s morale? How’s communication going? What are the challenges that the team is facing? Are any of these factors impacting the effectiveness of team? When you’ve drilled down into the cause of the issues, you’ll be much more likely to create an on-target team building effort.
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations
Teamwork Is All About People
Building an effective team is a key principle and priority of our business at Advanced Team Concepts, and it’s certainly important to the customers that we serve. Teamwork is all about people. As leader, it’s about creating a place where the talents and energies of individuals can combine to create something great. It’s also a tremendous challenge. It takes ongoing work and focused effort. A common misconception that I encounter in the business world is the idea that you can “team build” once every year or two and then check it off the list and get to the “real work.”
Imagine a family that only has “family time” once or twice a year, maybe at a gathering for a major holiday or family reunion. The rest of the year, the family is busy – work, chores, school, bills….I’ve seen my own family get into this mode – we call it the frantic family syndrome. There isn’t time for quality time, family dinners or fireside chats. Have you ever noticed that this is when the family fighting starts? It’s the same with a work team. If you don’t take the time to communicate, connect, and build relationships, eventually you’re going to see some dysfunction.
When a team isn’t cohesive, you as the leader can see the signs. Is there an absence of trust? Does the team avoid conflict or handle it badly? Are the individuals in the team more interested in their own self-preservation and advancement as opposed to the success of the team?
If you’ve noticed signs that your team isn’t syncing well, that’s a start. Awareness is the first critical step, but it must be combined with a commitment for improvement.
To start you off, I’d like to recommend a great read. Patrick Lencioni’s, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s a simple fable that simplifies and defines the importance of a healthy and effective team.
Awareness is a critical step. In future blogs, we’ll discuss some practical tips that can strengthen a team from both a leadership and a contributing team member’s perspective. If you have any team stories or tips, please add your comments. We’d love to hear them.
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations
Soft skills are broadly defined as “the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.” Soft skills tend to be a very important complement to the hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.
Recent research has found that companies are placing increasing focus and investment to develop these “people skills” in leaders/managers and those folks in particular that have a strong technical orientation rather that on people. In other words, it remains important for professionals to know what must be done and the technical aspects of how to get it done, but they must also be able to communicate this effectively and to motivate others in order to achieve excellent results.
Some of the most common soft skills employers seek include:
- Strong Work Ethic—motivation and dedication to getting the job done, no matter what. The desire is for people who will be conscientious and do their best work.
- Positive Attitude—optimism and an upbeat attitude. Good energy and good will tend to be contagious in an organization.
- Good Communication Skills—abilities to be both verbally articulate and a good listener. Professionals need to be able to express observations, interpretations, ideas, and even feelings in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors.
- Spoken communication is important, in all of its forms—face-to-face, presentations, team settings and more.
- Written communication has become super critical, as most groups are very dependent on email and other written forms of information within and outside of the organization. Every time we hit “send,” we are sending an image of our companies.
- Time Management Abilities—prioritization of tasks and work, often on a number of different projects at once. Time is a precious resource that must be used wisely.
- Problem-Solving Skills—resourceful and creative resolution of problems. Professionals are desired to take ownership of problems rather than leave them for someone else.
- Team Play—excellence of work in groups and teams. You can’t do it alone in today’s organizations. Professionals are desired that create and lead a cooperative environment.
- Self-Confidence—belief in one’s ability to get the job done. Pressure is a reality in most organizations. Leaders that project a sense of calm can inspire confidence in others.
- Ability to Accept and Learn from Criticism—the capacity to handle criticism. Receiving coaching well can create opportunities to learning and growth, both as a person and as a professional.
- Flexibility/Adaptability—adaptability to new situations and challenges. Change happens in most organizations at a pace never before seen in business. Professionals and leaders are needed who will embrace change and new ideas as paths to opportunities.
- Working Well Under Pressure—handling the stress that accompanies deadlines and crises. Pressure and stress can both motivate or harm an organization. People who perform with excellence, even doing their best work under pressure, are highly prized in today’s workforce.
The list above is not exhaustive. Here are a few other categories that we often see hiring groups focus on when interviewing candidates. In a hiring or interview context, techniques that utilize “open-ended questions” engage applicants in sharing from their personal experiences and past behaviors, how they utilize “soft skills” in accomplishing work.
- Decision making—using a range of options and processes to reach key decisions
- Leadership—influencing others
- Organizational skill
- Managing change—not just adapting to change, but being able to lead change
- Valuing diversity
This has become so important for organizations that ATC is now developing a soft skills assessment approach that can help you evaluate the GAP between where you are now and where you desire the organization to be. A paper-and-pencil survey is not always the path for evaluating these critical skills.
Stay tuned for updates on this important topic.
Best wishes for a successful 2010,
Renewed Focus on Teams
We want to share an interesting observation with you – the most searched part of our website in the past few months is on the topic of team development. In addition, the number of hits has increased dramatically in the past two months.
What might this suggest? Well, one thought is that many organizations are feeling a special area of pain following recent restructurings and staff reductions. Many of these same companies have leaders that recognize that strong teams can be an essential ingredient to pull through tough times and move on towards a healthy recovery.
Existing team structures are often upset significantly through the processes of re-organization, and new or increased investment in team development can be very useful to re-build damaged team structures.
It will be interesting to see how this materializes in the coming months as we see more companies begin to reinvest in people and organizational development. We will provide you with updates through this blog.
In some cases, re-establishing high levels of empowerment will be critical because of the reductions among leadership teams.
There is one powerful and critical suggestion that we would emphasize – equip your leaders and teams with solid knowledge about the processes of empowerment.
Avoid mistakes that were often made in the past. Many managers rushed toward empowerment, recognizing the potential that exists in a highly empowered team environment. Unfortunately, they did not understand the process, and the result was “entitlement” rather than empowerment, which is a very negative and costly organizational illness.
Push to move your leaders and teams along the “empowerment journey,” but take the time and make the investment to do it correctly.
President, Advanced Team Concepts