Teamwork. We hear about it all the time. Our business-speak is littered with “team” jargon. The term “teamwork” is so overused that it has all but lost its meaning. In your organization the word team may describe the entire company, self-selecting groups of individuals, or subsets of key individuals who have been identified to solve specific problems.
How do we sift through all of the clichés and aphorisms to focus in on what will actually make our teams successful? Let’s walk through the core components of a successful business team.
The individual is the core unit of a team, so let’s start here.What are the characteristics that make each member function well in a team environment? Regardless of the other elements in the matrix, the individuals selected to be a part of the team must be capable—demonstrating experience and problem-solving ability—and they must be team-oriented.
According to research, in order to be considered team-oriented, members must meet the following personal criteria:
–Open, willing to stretch and ask the tough questions
–Supportive of teammates, putting the good of the team ahead of any personal agenda
–Active in the team, and in moving towards stated team goals
–Positive, offering a can-do attitude.
It is said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For successful teams, having highly competent individual team members is simply not enough. Strong positive relationships are essential to the success of the team.
What does “positive” mean here? It means win-win relationships where team members feel that they are being heard and listened to. All team members must be willing to make adjustments that will build the relationship.
The two-lane exchange of feedback is essential. Given and received constructively, feedback allows a team to modify its path before getting the process too far off track. That means checking your ego at the door and listening effectively.
Most teams are put in place to solve problems or achieve goals of one sort or another, and problem solving in a team environment requires some additional competencies and personal abilities. We know that problem solving is made up of critical thinking skills, data gathering, analyzing, and using your judgment to weigh alternatives and risks – however when we transition to a team environment we’ve got even more considerations. Here are a few more key skills for effective problem solving in a team environment:
-Willingness to change processes that aren’t working
Regardless of the quality of the individual members, the relationships among members, and the ability of the members to work as a team to solve problems, the group must have an effective leader who allows team members to do their job and encourages the positive behavior necessary for the team to accomplish its goals. Here are the qualities the leaders must embrace:
·Ability to focus on the goal. The team leader holds the vision and ensures that the team is focused correctly on the goal at hand.
·Supports the collaborative environment. The team leader makes sure that team members know the expectation that they will function as a collaborative unit. When they are ready to work toward the goal at hand, the leader supports the process for the good of the group as a whole and the organization.
·Instills confidence. The effective team leader is successful at instilling confidence among team members. Remembering to accentuate the positive, the effective team leader gets the most out of each team member.
·Is also an effective team member. The team leader should demonstrate the characteristics of a successful team member and should be knowledgeable of the content of the job.
·Leads. Simply stated, the effective team leader is able to set the priorities for the team and keep the team on task.
·Manages performance. Effective leaders must challenge members who are not contributing their fair share and be empowered to handle the behavior for the good of the team and the goal.
Wrapping Up: Using a Five-Step Process
Working in teams can bring you results you’d never achieve individually. Utilizing each team members’ strengths effectively and keeping open the lines of unbiased communication can, and will, work wonders for your organization – regardless of your size and shape. Each time you encounter a team problem use the following 5 step process to ensure a successful outcome.
1.Identify the Problem. What needs to be accomplished?
2.Create a Collaborative Setting. Set up rules to focus on the issues and not territoriality in the organization. Remember that the only way to win is if everyone wins.
3.Analyze the Issues. What specifically has to be dealt with to sole the overall problem? You must attack the problem one step at a time.
4.Create Possible Solutions. Brainstorm solutions to come up with a few that are promising and then identify the strengths and weaknesses of each.
5.Resolve the Single Question. Analyze the solutions you have brainstormed to select the one that will most likely solve the problem at hand.
Asserting for Your Interests
Situations are complex, especially at work. There are countless circumstances to deal with every week. Which ones should you take on? Which ones should be let go? The truth is that there is no right answer, because there is no way of ensuring how the conversation will turn out, even if you give it your best shot.
Regardless, when you do make the decision to take on a situation and communicate your angle, ask yourself; is the real conflict inside of you? Sometimes what’s difficult about a situation is much more related to what is going on inside of you, versus what is going on between you and someone else. In this case, focusing on the conversation isn’t going to pay off. You may as well complete the conflict within yourself.
Once you decide to address a situation, ask yourself if there is a better way to address it than actually talking about it. Take time to sort out your contribution to the situation. Once you make more sense of your role, you may be able to come up with some solutions that include you changing your role and contribution.
Now that you have considered your role in the situation, ask yourself if your purpose makes sense. Sometimes we try having conversations when our purposes are simply off-base. When that happens, the outcome is not likely to be positive, regardless of how carefully you choose your words.
Here are some simple guidelines:
Don’t focus on short term relief at long-term cost. It is easy to be defensive in a variety of conversations. Step into the space between your perception of the situation and what your ideal reaction is. You may feel relieved for a while after “finally letting them know what you think,” but that satisfaction may be short-lived. Instead, approach difficult situations from a stance of curiosity. Ask why they feel the way they do, and what you can do to provide more information about your stance.
Don’t hit and run. If you are going to talk, talk. Really talk. Don’t throw out an off-hand comment at a frustrated moment. Just like location is everything in the restaurant world, timing is everything in the communication world.
In summary, investigate and acknowledge the basis for your own feelings, consider whether alternative solutions may be better than a face off, consider your own purpose and whether it is on task or if it is loaded with conflict that is unrelated to the situation at hand. Finally, focus on long-term solutions (not just the satisfaction of telling your side), and choose an appropriate time and situation, versus the off-hand attack that leaves all sides defensive.