5 Ways Leaders Can (re)Form Great Teams

iStock_000026944251SmallIf you are, or have been, part of a team, you’ve probably had times where it seems the team is in a rut. Or maybe you inherited a team and know you need to make some changes and improve performance. Where do you start?

Here are five ways leaders can form (or reform) great teams:

  1. Purpose
    Simon Sinek said, “Start with WHY.” So, we will. But understanding the purpose of your team starts with first knowing the purpose of your organization. Your organization’s purpose should identify specific goals. How does your team support those goals? To state it another way – if your team were eliminated, how would that hinder organizational goals from being reached?
  2. Positions
    Do you have the right roles in place to accomplish the purpose of your team? Once you’ve identified the purpose of your team, then you should be able to list the tasks required to fulfill that purpose. Ask how these tasks divide into specific roles. Patrick Lencioni famously attributed “Avoidance of Accountability” as one of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. You can’t hold someone accountable for something they didn’t know was their responsibility. This is why defining roles is so important. Once you have a clear understanding of the necessary positions, see if your current team structure fills these roles. If not, you may need to add or remove positions from your team.
  3. People
    In his book Good to Great, this is what Jim Collins called getting the right people on the bus. It is pretty straightforward, but difficult. You now know the Purpose of your teams and its necessary positions. Now, do the members of your team exhibit the skills, experience and behavior necessary for their given position? To identify where gaps exist, you need to perform an assessment. A simple way to begin this is to list the necessary attributes and have each team member rate themselves (i.e. a scale of 1-5 is standard). Once this is done, you can rate each team member against the same attributes and discuss if there are any differences of opinion. Once you agree on the ratings, any gaps in competency should be addressed. This may mean additional training, or if the gaps are great/many, it may mean re-assignment to a different position.
  4. Processes
    If processes hinder your team’s ability to collaborate and communicate, then they are obviously hampering overall teamwork. These processes could be 1) unnecessary and/or duplicated work that distracts from important work and drains energy, 2) steps that divide work unevenly and/or are asynchronous – keeping workflow out of sync, 3) communication patterns that create information silos, among others. The most effective way of assessing your processes is to map them out. This can often be done on large dry-erase boards or with multiple sheets of adhesive flip chart paper. This makes a great team-building workshop, but may require a skilled facilitator to help guide the process effectively.
  5. Place
    If you need people to cross-pollinate ideas and work collaboratively, then the physical environment you create should help facilitate those outcomes.

    Every organization (and every employee) performs a bit better or worse because of the planning, design, and management of its physical work – Franklin Becker, Offices At Work

    How can you physically encourage people to share with each other, but still give them the ability to work independently as needed? Is there enough commons space available for people to cross paths or overhear conversations that may stimulate ideas and create an attitude of partnering with one another? Is the lighting inspirational or dulling? Can you add anything visually curious to the otherwise boring walls? Is there any sign that fascinating work is being done by your team? Sometimes, offices look a lot more interesting BEFORE they are finished being built. The open walls, wiring and pipes can pique your curiosity. “I wonder what THAT is going to look like when they get done.” Your team may be inspired by indicators that there are “Men at Work” and projects are “Under Construction.”

By taking stock of these five areas, leaders can get their teams unstuck, improve performance and help their teams enjoy working together along the way.

What have you done (or seen done) to help teams get out of a rut or get better results?

Dustin Staiger is a business consultant and speaker in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, communications, creativity and branding for global corporations as well as non-profits and start-ups.

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