Effective ways to build an A team
AN EFFECTIVE manager, who is in essence an effective leader, can follow various steps towards building a quality team.
However, unless there is a defined process in place for the development of a learning culture, all other stages of development will fail.
The task of building a team requires that each member of the team approaches the team-building exercise with an attitude of “what can I learn” from this exercise and “what will my contribution be worth”?
Members of the team need to be encouraged to approach the exercise with an open mind and must feel from the outset that their individual contribution is meaningful, worth listening to and will be used appropriately or acted upon.
Managers and supervisors need to be capable of taking what is seen to be inappropriate suggestions or ideas and tactfully asking the team member to think further about the suggestion and give a more detailed proposal at the next meeting.
That will encourage participation, make the team member feel the idea is worth considering and encourage him or her to reconsider the idea and come back with a more formalised and well-thought out proposal. This approach becomes a part of the learning experience that can benefit everyone.
The manager becomes a leader and not a boss from the outset. Active participation is encouraged and team members are made to feel that their contribution is appreciated. Team members will be excited to be part of a constructive and open group where all ideas, good or bad, have merit.
Here are some ideas:
1. Describe the purpose or what it is you are trying to achieve
Who are your potential customers and how will you create value for them?
When people are clear about the purpose of their work, they are better able to understand their manager’s concerns. When they are not clear about purpose, they do not feel part of the team.
2. Clarify roles and responsibilities
Let people know who the team members are and how their roles relate to one another.
When roles are unclear, people do not feel empowered to take responsibility. When the role is obscure, team members may end up encroaching on one another’s territory. That can lead to conflict and will certainly undermine teamwork.
It is important that you choose the right person for the right position in the team. Without the right level of competency, team members will not be able to perform effectively.
3. Cultivate a climate of open communication
You can never communicate too much in a work environment where communication relates to progress and/or problems.
The best teams have the most open communication and do not avoid creative conflict. Managers need to allow debate and constructive input by members.
Once a decision is made, each team member must support that decision and work towards what has now become the common goal.
Managers must seek the views of team members, even if they do not like what they hear.
4. Develop trust by treating people fairly
Relationships deteriorate when managers play favourites.
The secret here is consistency in how employees are treated.
Trying to get employees to compete has its place if it is the decision of the employees concerned, but for the manager to cultivate this competition will lead to distrust and undermine teamwork objectives.
5. Evaluation and constructive feedback
Evaluation should be ongoing in an environment of continuous and honest dialogue, rather than becoming a bureaucratic process.
Poor performance can and should be noted in open-discussion sessions with employees.
Performance discussions need to be constructive so as to avoid conflict between the manager and the employee.
Unfortunately, evaluation takes place after the event and recording poor performance serves no purpose at that stage. It is like “closing the gate after the dog has got out”.
Rather look at the poor performance as a lesson or learning curve and make the exercise of discussing poor performance something constructive. Evaluations take place as a means to improving performance.
6. Create a learning culture
When you create a learning culture, you will encourage employees to take responsibility and to assist and support one another.
Your employees can share experience and learn from one another’s mistakes and successes. Good ideas can be discussed, acted on and rewarded.
Developing a learning culture starts at the top of an organisation.
If supervisors are afraid of making mistakes because they might be punished, if their roles are unclear, if they are confused about the company’s purpose or objectives, they will not be in a position to develop effective teamwork.
Relationships can only be sustained in an organisation that has values and a code of ethics that cultivate trust and stimulate learning.
The failure of top management and HR and training personnel to understand this is the main reason why improving teamwork remains a top issue for management consultants.