A few weeks ago I met one of my Clients, an HR Director who asked me to help a colleague (the Finance Director) to work better with his team. As I questioned her on the situation, she explained that he hadn’t actually expressed the need to work better with his team, as he thought to work with the single members was just fine and effective. What alarmed the HR Director was the fact was he never held team meetings.
Therefore she wanted to offer him support to realize he needed to build up the team and that one by one management could not be enough. Asking the Director about why he wouldn’t perform meetings, he said he didn’t have time for that. Even the team members, when asked, gave the same answer.
So this brought me to an essential question: what is the value of a team?
- better communication: a team meeting is a moment in which issues can be expressed and solved with the support of the manager. It provides a moment of interaction between team members and the process they manage. Furthermore, it helps team member to take responsibility;
- collective intelligence: a good team is made up of diverse members. When they work together as a group, they become more creative and to apply different skills to the same problem coming up with a more effective solution that one person could actually do working alone;
- motivation: working together as a team sharing skills and experiences improves each individual’s performance. This reinforces their relation to the company and colleagues and increases job satisfaction.
I could add many other advantages to building a team, such as improved productivity, positive impact on company climate, increased innovation.
So, as a manager, if you want to invest in building a team, what do you need to do?
First of all, building a team takes a while (in my experience 6 months is a minimum, 9 months would be more realistic) as you have to go through different phases. As a manager your role in that process is crucial, even if you want to be supported by an external coach.
- Inclusion: according to William Schutz, inclusion is the first phase that the members of a group face need to experience. This is about accepting the group and feeling part of the group. Group members start to define themselves and the others. Inclusion is a fundamental process that kicks off every team meeting. It is also important for including new members. The team leader needs to manage this process and it is the first opportunity to show leadership. He will be the one helping people to “enter” in the group supporting the inclusion process and making sure that everyone is on board.
- Alignment: as we think of this process in an organisational context, we define a team as a functional group that has to pursue a common goal. The phase of alignment corresponds to the moment in which all members share their perception and vision of the goal. They will then need to develop a common understanding of issues, obstacles and solutions. The role of the manager in this case is particularly active, as he can intervene as a clarifier, facilitator and coach to support the team and actions. Furthermore he will be able to understand better the resources the team needs to reach the goal and their level of autonomy.
- Performance: we are about enhanced group performance rather then individual performance. This is when the group, thanks to their diversity and reciprocal acceptance, to their alignment and empowerment, can access their collective intelligence and generate enhanced results. It becomes a powerful creative process. The role of the manager in that phase is mainly the role of coach: he encourages and empowers the team. Furthermore, thanks to the gained maturity of his team, he will be able to deal with more strategic issues, rather then operational aspects that are managed by the team.
This is the process on the paper. It is clear that the reality is much more complex and unpredictable. At the same time, like every good coach knows, “if a good process is well-led, then everything works well”. In that sense if the manager demonstrates a clear management style with his team, clarifying goals, exchanging expectations, caring about and empowering people, the value he will get out of the team will be extraordinary.
So what do you think? Is it worth building up your Team? Or if you already did, how did it happen?