Teamwork is a vital part of everyday working practice yet it’s still something that has a big impact on whether a company is successful or fails. Team working can lead to productivity and efficiency improvements – or just cause problems for management.
Maybe you’ve considered the idea that “you’ve been set-up to fail?” Maybe it’s due to a lack of faith in the team or the project brought upon you, either way the negative attitude from the start isn’t going to bring success.
Team success is a well-studied part of business and ‘what matters most, it turns out, is how teams are managed - and whether the organizations they’re part of provide them with the support they need.’ (Why Some Teams Succeed (and So Many Don’t), Harvard Business Review)
Managing a team is a balancing act between being too hands on or stepping too far back. A manager needs to be there to guide the team and give direction but not micro-manage. There needs to be some authority and responsibility within the team itself: ‘Team members can act as a team only if they have real responsibility - such as determining how to achieve their goals.’ (Why Some Teams Succeed (and So Many Don’t), Harvard Business Review)
Goal setting isn’t an easy, ‘do it off the top of your head’ type challenge, it requires thought and some collaboration. Right from the beginning of a project, the whole team should know the objective and what they’re trying to achieve.
Each individual or group of individuals might then be given set goals and a timeline of when things need to be done. These should be set by the manager but with input from the individual. Goals should also take into consideration the strengths of different team members and where they can have the best input.
Once goals are set, it should be left up to the team members as to how they achieve their goals.
Projects don't magically happen. Planning is vital to ensure everyone is making the most of their time on the project or piece of work and helps to identify when different team members get involved.
Planning should relate back to the overall objective and the time scale you and your team are working to. Remember, failure can often come from over-promising and under-delivering! Don’t promise that the project will take 6 weeks if in reality it is more likely to take three months. Even if the output is amazing, the fact that it went so far over the deadline will cloud any successes in the project.
Training & Development
You can’t assume everyone in the team is at the top of their game and knows everything. As part of goal setting and identifying people’s strengths, you should also consider their weaknesses so they can train and develop their skills in order to do the job.
Encourage peer-to-peer coaching within the team and get involved with developing team member’s knowledge and skills. A leader doesn’t just recognise a problem and criticise, but instead coaches the individual and team.
Management & Support
At the end of the day, even if you have the best team for the project, things can still go wrong. This is why management is vital. Someone needs to oversee what’s going on and realise where mistakes could be made and act to avoid them.
Team-sports are a great example of where the manager makes a difference to how the team plays. Individually, a team might be made up of the world’s best players, but as a group, they may not play well together. A manager nurtures the team, recognises the strengths and weaknesses and supports and manages the team to become a better side.
You should be influencing and motivating the team rather than dictating.
Recognition & Reward
Recognition and rewards can be used to motivate teams and show where they have performed well. We all like being told that we've done well, and recognition should be given where it’s deserved, as should reward, but remember, it should be team recognition and reward.
Individual bonuses, rewards and even promotions can destroy a team. When managing and supporting a team, try and find ways to evenly and fairly distribute rewards and recognition.
Helping your team succeed comes back to the management of the team. On the one hand, you can't expect a team to just do everything without guidance and support, but on the other, micro-managing every process will damage the team’s confidence and ability to get on with their jobs.
Make sure there is sufficient planning involved for projects and that goals are set. As the manager of the team, you should recognise and understand the individual team member’s strengths.
Training and development should then be utilised to improve the team’s skills and improve the efficiency of the teamwork. It's important to trust your team but give support and direction.
Just remember – reward and recognition should be given as a team, individual bonuses and recognition could damage the team.