Have you ever wondered why the team that you were on didn’t work very well together? It’s likely that your team was doomed from the start. In sports, you build teams from individuals with best achievements. In business, we hear the sports analogy, but, in most cases, it couldn’t be farther from reality — teams are seldom picked and mixed together based on the best individuals and their skills. Typically, people wind up on a team based on a range of factors, such as:
- They were on this team before and it was part of their job description.
- They were told they had to be on this team.
- They were added to the team as a reward or — worse — as punishment!
Usually, the “team leaders” are only symbolic. They are responsible for the team but without real authority. They also are expected to perform their other full-time jobs. These types of teams fail.
1. Discover Everyone’s Preferences
It is important to build the right team from the start. Take an inventory of the people in your organization. Compile a database based on interviews and surveys. Ask people:
- Which types of roles they feel challenging but also they have the skills for?
- Which roles best align their abilities and their interests?
- Who wants to lead and who wants to be led?
- Which roles fit the image of the work they most want to do?
Part of this inventory process is to understand from each person in the organization what they want to do more of, less of, and how management can assist. As a result of this process, you have a database which contains real input from people. Then when the time comes to put together teams, you are able to review the database and select people who best fit.
2. Encourage and Support
Once the leader sets up a team, its members should spend time helping to set vision and clarify goals. Then, the team should be free to self-manage and make progress without micromanagement. Teams are comprised of people, and they need support and encouragement but not threats, punishment, and rewards. People just want to feel like they are making a contribution. Successful teams go on to complete many winning projects if the upfront structure and ground rules are established.
3. Promote Collaboration, not Competition
The humanistic leader treats all team members the same way and rewards them equally. The team knows its goals and desired state. The work itself becomes a reward. If the reward must be given, it should be equal to all members as a result of the team progress towards common goals. Making individuals on a team compete with one another is the way to increase conflicts. When, instead, people feel that everyone has the same goals and incentives, collaboration is more effective, productivity is higher, and accomplished results are much better.
4. Set a Clear Desired State
This is the most important first step for a team. The humanistic leader spends several hours with the entire team communicating the desired state and taking time to ensure all members clearly understand the vision and the path. Without a clear vision, team members will start distracting one another, decreasing productivity, and the desired result will not be achieved.
5. Have Better Team Meetings
Team meetings should be held in two different formats. There should be a regular operational meeting (process meeting) where people give updates and the leader also communicates status and next steps. This type of meeting should be rigorous and structured. Teams also need a second type of meeting. These are mission meetings where the group is either to solve a problem or to create a solution. These meetings should be of a brainstorming type and run in a creative, collaborative way. Teams can break down when there is confusion about expected outcomes.
6. Rotate Leadership
Rotating team leaders on a regular basis is healthy for the team. It also helps everyone to feel vested in the outcome. Plus, when you lead one day and follow another day, you gain new experience and gain new perspectives. Letting people take on leadership roles for the first time will help to build confidence and also be a valuable development activity at the same time. A well-structured team will not let new leaders fail knowing that one day they will be asked to lead.
The humanistic leader designs teams around people. It is an art of combining what they want to do and where their abilities and interests fit best. As a result, teams will be more successful and reach their desired states more quickly. As a first step, take an inventory of your team. Then, put together the next team based on their experience and not on what you have always done before. You will see new results!
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