I am currently working with a group of managers who are looking to improve team work. Teams are obviously not new to organisations, but the way in which companies are using them is changing. Rigid hierarchies are giving way to fast paced digital markets, where organisations are developing dynamic networks of interdisciplinary teams. Organisations are moving towards teams based on shared mission, product, market or customer, where many employees may be members of multiple teams.
It is tempting to think that more teamwork is the solution but is more teamwork always better?
Teams may produce magic, though this is not always guaranteed as we so publically see on the sports field. Gallup suggests that one of the biggest problems in teamwork is the lack of clarity regarding team purpose and team roles often creating issues of trust. As in the case with my client, we often don’t take enough time to collectively answer why does the team exist? It is often assumed that everyone understands.
I am using a version of the following 4-step approach to help my client to explore what teamwork looks like for them:
- The team starts by clarifying expectations.
- The team recognizes the unique strengths team members can use to help them reach their goals.
- The team arranges activities to make it possible for team members to do what they do best every day.
- Finally, the team focuses on making sure everyone has what they need to succeed.
Whilst it is easy to outline the steps in improving team dynamics, just 12% of executives indicated that they know how to improve collaboration, whilst only 21% are confident in their ability to develop cross functional teams, when surveyed.
My experience suggests that managers are simply not able to navigate the minefields of execution, influence, relationship and strategic thinking required to do so and as the Gallup research shows, what managers are doing make up 70% of employee engagement scores. The upside of getting it right is a 10% improvement in customer satisfaction and a 20% improvement in sales.
The result is that effective team dynamics begins with managers and leaders understanding their role as high performance leaders first, before effective team engagement can occur. Thereafter, it takes time to build the trust and collaboration required using the 4-steps, before active engagement improves.