A team management guide (part 2)

Sue Wright

MAnTechs

(Continued from “A team management guide (part 1)”)

In the first part of this article, I introduced the seven key elements critical to success in leadership and covered off the first four in more detail:

1. Clarify the team mission

2. Define the objectives

3. Conduct regular appraisals

4. Implement performance reviews

5. Hold monthly meetings

6. Understand team dynamics

7. Build the right environment

Here, I will review elements 5 – 7 to complete our discussion of the successful management approach.

5. Hold monthly meetings

Team briefing is a systematic approach to two-way communications between the manager and their team, held at regular intervals with opportunities for questions and discussion. Teams being briefed in this way should ideally consist of between 4 -15 people from work teams with a common identity. The team leader, as briefer, will usually be the line manager or supervisor, accountable for the work of the team. However, it is proposed that these meetings should be chaired on a rotational basis in order to provide all members of staff with the opportunity of leading the meeting. Team leaders will convey the information contained within any core brief (essential information to be communicated to staff), combined with any local information to the team as part of the team briefing process. Items to be discussed can be categorised under the following headings: –

‘General Work Review’ – this provides the opportunity for each member of the team to spend a short period of time describing day-to-day operations, problems, achievements and frustrations, and sharing them with his or her colleagues

‘Brainstorming’‘– this describes an unstructured and informal opportunity to analyse specific problems relating to the team. This would normally relate to a specific objective or key task but, where appropriate, can be applied to any problem with which the team has to contend

• ‘Team Performance Review’ – this describes the physical process of the team sharing the opportunity of reviewing its overall performance in relation to its specific accountabilities, objectives, tasks, standards, measures and targets as appropriate. This would normally be achieved through performance monitoring set up either as part of an executive information system, or a separately maintained compilation of graphs, charts, and tables etc., which together represent the overall performance of the team at this point in time. At a team performance review, the team leader should take the opportunity to evaluate and discuss team and individual performance as a shared activity. Once the accountabilities, objectives, etc. have been developed, each team will need to report on the necessary information in relation to the agreed performance criteria. Each team, section, division or department should have performance monitors at each level of management

‘General Feedback’ – giving and receiving feedback provides the opportunity for all members of the team to discuss any problems, frustrations or concerns, suggestions for improvement etc., to benefit the organisation. Points for action simply ensure that the team agrees and documents actions to be taken by when and by whom

‘Action Plan’ – this will summarise all the appropriate courses of action that have been decided or agreed, documented and initiated.

Walking the talk

The team communications and review model has been found to be the most effective technique for creating a solid management environment, which will provide a sound foundation for you to succeed as a team leader. The very act of running these meetings, providing feedback and chairing the review of team performance will establish and enhance your leadership credentials. On the other hand this is a classic case of something which is much harder to do than to understand. Just do it!

 

“…this is a classic case of something which is much harder to do than to understand. Just do it!”

 

6. Understand team dynamics

(Dr Meredith Belbin on roles within teams)

Following many years’ research with teams, Dr Meredith Belbin identified a set of eight roles, which, if all are present in a team, give it the best chance of success. These roles are: –

• Coordinator

• Shaper

• Plant

• Monitor-Evaluator

• Implementer

• Resource Investigator

• Team Worker

• Completer Finisher

The Coordinator is mature, confident and clarifies goals. They can bring other people together to promote team discussions. Their allowable weakness is that they can be seen as manipulative and may offload personal work.

The Shaper is challenging, dynamic and thrives on pressure. They have the drive and courage to overcome obstacles. Their allowable weakness is that they are prone to provocation and liable to offend others.

The Plant is creative, imaginative, unorthodox and can solve difficult problems. Their allowable weakness is to ignore incidentals and they can be too pre-occupied with their own thoughts to communicate effectively.

The Monitor-Evaluator is serious minded, strategic and discerning. They are able to see all options and can judge accurately. Their allowable weakness is to lack drive and an ability to inspire others.

The Implementer is disciplined, reliable, conservative in their habits and has a capacity for taking practical steps and actions. Their allowable weakness is to be somewhat inflexible and slow to respond to new possibilities.

The Resource Investigator is extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative and explores opportunities and develops contacts. Their allowable weakness is to be over-optimistic and they can lose interest once their initial enthusiasm has passed.

The Team Worker is co-operative, mild, perceptive, and diplomatic. They listen, build and avert friction. Their allowable weakness is that can be indecisive in crunch situations.

The Completer Finisher is painstaking, conscientious, anxious and searches out errors and omissions, but delivers on time. Their allowable weakness is that they are inclined to worry unduly and are reluctant to let others into their own job.

All of these roles add value to a team and can adversely impact team performance when missing. It is not essential to have one person fulfilling each role within the team, but if members are aware of what roles they naturally fulfill and what roles they might be required to take on at certain times, it can greatly help the team to work together to achieve their goals. In small teams, people can, and do, assume more than one role. In addition, analysing existing teams and their performance or behaviour, using these team role concepts can lead to improvements.

Walking the talk

In your team you will find that some people get on while others do not. You will also find that some are much easier to manage than are others. You will usually find that the most difficult to manage are the most valuable to your team performance. Seek to develop an understanding of the differences between the individuals that make up your team and how those differences can be extremely valuable as well as irritating. You don’t have to love each other, just work well together!

 

“Probably the most important role of an operational team leader is to create the kind of environment where people are happy, stimulated, comfortable and motivated.”

 

7. Build the right environment

Probably the most important role of an operational team leader is to create the kind of environment where people are happy, stimulated, comfortable and motivated. Once achieved, you should be looking to maintain and, where possible, improve it. Whereas most of the other techniques and skills can, in the main, be successfully learned, developing and maintaining the right environment is certainly easier for those with natural leadership skills. However, regardless of how natural your leadership skills may be, this element of team management is the most important and often results from how well the previous skills are practiced. It is not enough to know these things, you need to do them. Most team members respond well to someone who has a clear understanding of what is required, but this does not mean the manager has all the answers.

In fact, leaders who regularly communicate with their whole team, involving them in the various decisions, listening and analysing ideas before setting out the way forward, often get the best results. Also, leaders who set about taking a personal interest in developing the skills of their team members will be rewarded by their loyalty, which is essential to the success of a team leader. Finally you should ensure fairness and consistency of approach when dealing with your team and champion it and them within the wider organisation.

Walking the talk

This one is not difficult to understand but very difficult to do well – it takes time, effort and persistence to learn the right approach, but will pay off in the longer term.

So, no-one said it was going to be easy, but if you follow these seven steps you should be able to create successful, winning teams and personally develop as a strong manager and leader.

Now…..go walk the talk!!

About the author:

Sue holds an MBA from the London Business School, and has a B.Ed. Hons. from Cambridge. She worked with the Centre for High Performance Development (CHPD) for many years and is currently an independent management and leadership trainer. Sue may be contacted at sue@mantechs.com.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of a number of MAnTechs Associates who, through their research, practice and publications have assisted me in producing this short Team Management Guide.

Are the right dynamics in place within your team?