I talk with leaders every day who say “I just want my team to be better…I want them to act like a team!”
What the heck does that mean? “I just want them to act like a team!”
I suppose it means that everyone is getting along, getting results, finishing projects on time and helping your company to become better, stronger and quicker at everything you do.
The reality is that most organizations don’t take the time to sit down and actually “design” the team based on 5 core principles. So…today, I am going to leave you with 5 questions to answer. If you can say “YES!…Absolutely” to each one of these questions, then your team stands a great chance of success. These questions apply to both large organizations and small businesses.
Question 1: Is your team small enough to be effective?
Many leaders choose teams based on “the more, the merrier” philosophy. The truth is that too many cooks in the kitchen can destroy even the best recipes for success. When you have 10, 12 or 14 people on your team, everybody has an opinion, conflicts start to build and the next thing you know, your project has come to a screeching halt. Limit your team size to no more than seven people. If you feel you must have ten people on your team, split them into two teams of five each, and assign each team an objective which will help you reach your big vision. You will accomplish much more with fewer people to stir the pot.
Question 2: Does your team know where you are going, and are they inspired by that direction?
I interview quite a few teams each year, and this one question usually stumps most team members. They usually say “Well…I work for the company, and I do what the boss says to do.” Argh! One of the biggest favors you can do for your team is to sit down and tell them where you are going, why this is important and how you need them to get on board. This is your chance to get really, really creative. Ask for input on the direction, describe what the project is going to look like, and get commitment from your team. While I am not a “rah rah” person, it is a good idea to have a 5-minute pep rally with your team each morning…reminding them of where you are going. Will you veer off on occasion? Absolutely! But…at the end of the day, if your team is buying into your direction, you stand a much greater chance of finishing projects on time and under budget.
Question 3: Is your TEAM being coached?
In the coaching work that I offer my clients, there are two types of coaching: Individual Leadership Coaching and Team Coaching. They are very, very different. It is not uncommon for an organization to call me, and ask me to work with a “problem team member.” I then learn during the one on one coaching that a team dynamic is usually at play that is causing frustration, slackness or insubordination from this one “problem team member”. With team coaching, everyone is involved, and the coaching starts with the team leader…usually the CEO or the Project Manager. Over a period of six months, the entire team is being coached both individually and with the full team in the room, and it works! Stop relying on coaching one person, hoping things turn around for the entire team. Just as in families, teams come with dynamics…quirks, agendas and biases, and team coaching can turn your team around on a dime.
Question 4: Does your team have structure?
Teams need structure. They need a project plan and accountability. If your team is not structured or seems disorganized, it’s time to sit down and map out a solid plan of action. Post this plan of action and structured tasks on a large whiteboard or on a large board that displays what everyone needs to be doing each day. With structure, you will have less questions and less confusion.
Question 5: Is your team allowed to openly debate your challenges and opportunities?
When I work with leaders, and I bring up the subject of “open debate”, the leader usually freezes and says…”Oh…I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Come on…they’re debating anyway. They are either gossiping or snipping at each other when things are going wrong, or they are smearing their leader’s reputation behind his/her back. With open debate, you give your team the psychological safety needed to speak their minds in a supportive environment. Open debate is not just a venting session. It is an opportunity for your team to get what’s really on their minds on the table, and in the end, you all agree on steps you will take to ACT on a solution. If your team is not allowed to openly debate issues in front of the team, they are probably afraid of their leader, so look closely at your own leadership and how you can grow so that open debate becomes an opportunity for strenghtening your organization.