It’s no secret that having a winning team is key to your success.

However,  few of us would contest the value of teamwork would we? Regardless of sector or type of business most people’s roles are demanding.  The environment can be challenging, with opportunities and threats at every twist and turn of the working day.  So co-operation is vital.

A team is not a disparate collection of individuals, but ‘a group of people cooperating with each other to work towards achieving an agreed set of aims, objectives or goals’.

What I find really interesting is that if you have a high performing, cohesive team, there’s so much value add.  It’s what we call the synergistic characteristics of a team.

You actually get more out than the sum of the parts.  There’s also lots of evidence that points to contributions from such a team being so much better than if the most capable, intelligent team member beavered away on their own.

So how do you achieve this? How do you get your hands on a team like this?  Well, you have to build one usually.  If you inherit a great team then that’s fantastic, but you’ll have to work even harder to keep the dynamics stable and cohesive.

You’ll need to have an explicit common goal, even a vision and mission or at least aims and objectives.  As a manager you also need to be aware of and take into account the individual needs and interests of team members.

But what else do you need to do?  Here’s some great ideas that you can apply easily, whether you manage a team of one or many.

1.  Avoid a mirror image

Avoid the trap that many managers fall into.  Don’t continually try and appoint people who are like you.  Usually a diverse team with different but complementary communication styles, personality types and skills sets works well. Diversity makes good business sense too.  So make sure you build all these requirements into your person specification and interviewing processes.

2. Motivation matters

Don’t assume that what motivates you and makes you want to come to work in the morning is going to be shared by your team members.  Take the time to get to know what their motivators are and where possible use these to ‘take your team’ with you.  Try and do this as soon as you can when you are appointed to the role.  We’ll be coming back to motivation a bit later in Challenge Number 5.

3. Teams go through different stages of development

A team develops over a period of time and every time you introduce a new team member or change around people’s roles, this may temporarily dent progress – teams may need to go back a bit more moving forwards again. So accept this and think about what you can do, and what you need to avoid doing, to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

4. What’s the difference between a group and a team?

A team is bound by a common goal.  Make sure yours know and understand theirs.

5. Core Values can be powerful stuff

Run a team event and get everyone involved in identifying core values which represent the culture of the team ‘the way we do things around here’, emphasising the values and ethos of the way they work, what they value and how they value each other and their clients/customers.

6. Develop a team brand

Once you have got your team core values, you can develop a team brand.  This can be a really good idea and from my experience people enjoy an ‘away day’ approach where they can all get involved.

7. Trust is key

Ensure your management style is fair and equitable. Any perceived inequity in your treatment of team members will be very harmful, motivation will suffer and cliques will form.  Remember this: people tend to weigh up their inputs.

These are what they perceive to be their personal contributions.  They then assess these in comparison to their team members.  They do the same with the outputs.

If their perception is that they input more but get less out than one or more of their team members, then nothing is more guaranteed to rock the proverbial boat and cause unrest.  Unrest could be defined as demotivation, team friction, drop in performance, bullying, lack of cooperation and so on.

The list of potential problems is endless. What’s really powerful to know is that perception drives behaviour.  It does not need to be reality.  If a team member perceives a situation, style, treatment etc to be inequitable, it is highly likely to cause problems.  Something I frequently hear on courses and when doing consultancy is the expression “It’s not fair”.

You must be aware of this, and avoid causing this sense of inequity. Nip potential issues in the bud.

8. Communicate!  Communicate!  Communicate!

The title says it all.

9. Involve your team in decision-making

Lots of research suggests that involvement in decision-making builds motivation, ownership and a sense of empowerment. More heads are usually better than one so neglect the synergistic characteristics of teams at your peril.

10. Do some regular maintenance

Teams are complex machines, so it’s not surprising that they need some regular maintenance.  Team-building days are a great way of achieving this, provided you are clear on what you want to achieve and communicate these expectations.  It’s not just a jolly.

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