While cooking offers opportunities for experimentation and leeway for correcting slightly disappointing dishes, (Chili too watery? Add a teaspoon of flour. Chicken slightly undercooked? Throw it back on the grill for a few minutes.) baking requires strict adherence to your recipe. If one aspect of your baked goods endeavor is incorrect or missing, you’re likely to wind up with a pastry catastrophe. Baking cookies, for example, requires sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, salt and baking powder. Omitting one ingredient like baking powder, while seemingly small and insignificant, will result in cookies that look good but are hard enough to chip your teeth. If you are trying to speed up the baking process by preheating your oven to 425 instead of 400, your cookies will turn into black hockey pucks.
A team of colleagues requires the same adherence to rules as baking. A team that works well together creates the potential for a lean, mean working machine that can greatly contribute to the success of the organization they work for. But teams are complex organisms and their effectiveness is dependent on many factors. If one of the ingredients for success isn’t there, teams can become dysfunctional and head towards an unappetizing outcome.
Sometimes, despite the best efforts of its leadership, team effectiveness is not where it should be and without steps being taken to right the course, the team is in danger of going off the rails entirely. Do these problems sound familiar to you?
Problem: Your team is dealing with duplicated efforts and turf wars over work and responsibilities.
Solution: Individuals within this team do not have clear roles. Define what each team member is expected to contribute to the team. If there is ambiguity as to who has a particular responsibility, clarify the ambiguity. This may require developing new processes for handing off work product or collaboration amongst team members.
Problem: Team members are going to superiors and complaining about other team members.
Solution: Your team members lack trust in one another. Building trust is easier said than done, especially when people are used to working by themselves. Identifyfriction points such as team members who are at odds with one another, bring them out into the open, and attempt to resolve these individual issues.
Problem: Team decision-making processes keep getting bottlenecked.
Solution: Determine a clear decision-making process for your team to follow. There should be clear delegation of authority so that team members know what decisions they can make on their own and decisions that need to be raised to a supervisor. This doesn’t mean that teams should be run in a hierarchical, top-down manner. Create opportunities for team members to provide input into how the team should work, for example, by holding regular team meetings. Any changes to decision making authorityshould be made at the meeting or shortly thereafter so that there is not a period of time where team members are uncertain as to who holds what authority.
Problem: Team-wide disillusionment and alienation.
Solution: Where teams are underappreciated within an organization, it is easy for the members to be disillusioned with the organization as a whole or adopt an “us vs. them” mindset. This underappreciation may result in the organization allocating the team inadequate resources. Failing to provide resources is setting the team up for failure.
Solving the problem of an undervalued team starts with allocating additional resources. While the organization’s leadership will likely need to authorize an increase in resources, leadership should ask the team leaders about which resources they need to improve performance.
A team’s dissatisfaction may also be the result of a lack of appreciation or a feeling that they have no voice in the organization. Identify ways in which the team and its members can be rewarded for their accomplishments.
What Makes an Effective Team?
A team’s effectiveness is highly reliant on its leadership. A good leader or manager can help a team get off on the right foot and continue to perform highly. Strong team leaders not only select the right people for a team but provide motivation, support for team and individual development, and nourish an environment of healthy communication and productive feedback. So how do you create an effective team?
1. Choose the right people. Incorporate people who bring varied levels of experience and perspective to projects. Integrate team members who not only have technical skills and experience, but emotional intelligence as well. If individuals are socially aware, the whole group will put in higher quality work. The ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others, according to a study in Science magazine, is the most important factor that influences overall group intelligence and can contribute to a team that works well together.
2. Communicate proactively. Communication is important, but proactive communication, which relies on team members reaching out first, is critical to building trust between team members and team leaders. Ensure individuals share and understand their common goals and ambitions. Provide regular feedback to employees and encourage team members to approach you with their feedback as well. Eventually, the goal is to get team members to provide information and updates, ask for support and assistance, provide guidance to other team members, and take initiative before being asked.
3. Monitor progress and celebrate successes. Teams require monitoring and maintenance. Verify that a team is working well together and that projects are on track at regular intervals so you can catch any friction between team members or any project sidetracking early on. If necessary, reassign team roles or redefine projects. Let the team work through their own challenges as much as possible. Overcoming obstacles as a team can help them grow closer. When a team accomplishes its goals, be sure to recognize their achievements and show your appreciation.
Teams are not static. As their membership changes, team members that formerly worked collaboratively may suddenly turn to squabbling with one another. New leadership in the organization may leave the team feeling uncertain or underappreciated. Good leadership requires constant attention to shifting team dynamics and timely intervention to resolve issues before they break the team apart.