If you believe the adage that a team is only as strong as its weakest member, it is clear to see why organisations are investing in building better teaming capabilities to achieve organisational effectiveness.
However, articulating what a team needs in terms of improving the way they work is a constant challenge. We thought it worthwhile to highlight some interesting themes emerging and gaining traction based on recent work we have carried out with Teams, to see if it connects with you and what you are experiencing.
1. As organisational culture shifts steadily towards one that empowers people to lead at all levels, the demand on individual and collective leadership capabilities is moving up the priority list of essential teaming competencies. Generally, people develop a way of leading through their experiences and apply that style to every circumstance they encounter. In a team environment, this is often a source of conflict and erodes trust within and towards the team. For example, a dominant teammate taking over and disempowering others to stand-up and contribute. Learning and modelling leadership flex is a key aspect of team development. Team success comes from team members demonstrating personal and collective leadership styles that are appropriate to the followership they seek to achieve in each interaction.
2. Much like family, we rarely get to pick the people we work with as part of a team. Team diversity is often the biggest source of interpersonal conflict and poor communication. Working with teams to help them understand and value the differences is essential to them achieving better outcomes. With this understanding, the team can leverage team member’s strengths without fear of judgement or misinterpretation. Cross-cultural understanding is also a big factor. It commonly creates issues around communication, interpretation of desired outcomes and inter-personal issues that damage the smooth running of a team. Some of the models we work with to create awareness and understanding around team diversity include Hofstede Cultural Dimensions, Strength Finder, MBTI, and Belbin Team Roles.
3. More and more organisations are realising the need to look at the organisation in terms of an integrated and interdependent system. Applying systems thinking to how we solve organisational challenges has become common practice as a way of limiting the impact of unintended consequences caused by narrowly focused solutions. Our work is to introduce or encourage integrative thinking, so that teams understand that they not only need to solve the problem they have been tasked with, but also ensure that the impact of their solutions has the least possible unintended consequences for others.
4. Integrating remote workers is a challenge at the best of time. However, when we look at this challenge in the context of team performance the effect is amplified. While we are seeing some movement away from this model, IBM as the latest example, the reality is that managing the productivity of remote teams will always be a factor due to globalization and the need for flexible work practices. This creates a greater need for teams to have high levels of trust and accountability so that they can have robust inputs into team discussions. Some of the skills we help teams develop are reading language cues, active listening, and having the courage to have personal conversations and address concerns head on. As team facilitators, we work with the unspoken dynamics to create learning opportunities during the intervention, ensure everyone stays ‘present’ and that the team achieve the level of honesty need to build real and lasting trust.
5. The desire for learning is a significant advantage for the knowledge based economy – if an organisation doesn’t grow its knowledge base through its people, it is at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, the desire to learn satisfies the individual’s intrinsic motivation, leading to happier more committed staff. While our approach is anchored in practical and experiential learning, many of the methodologies we use have a basis in academia. We have seen an increase in demand for source materials and references from participants wanting to deepen their learning. During a recent programme over 50% of the team had sourced and purchased Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, which we were working with. By the end of the intervention, they were teaching the principles to others in the organisation, as subject experts. The cascade effect if this appetite for knowledge multiplied the company’s ROI.
We would be interested to hear what if anything has connected with you, based on experiences of being part of a team or managing one. Is there anything else that comes up for you as a key teaming challenge?
Written by Dayna and Peter of Distinctions