Building your team

Building a team is like bouncing a ball, the more energy you put in, the more energy you get out.

However, the mistake most organisations make is that they invest energy is getting the team together, defining roles, getting to know one another, and how to work together within that framework. Then the team is left to fend for itself with the help of a performance management system, often limited to KPIs and team building days. This is not enough. Teams need to be revived or refreshed from time to time, as team dynamics change and individuals evolve.

Commitment is key

Team leaders need to think about the level of commitment in a team. This is basically the foundation and springboard for the team to bounce off and succeed. This is probably one of the hardest qualities to gage. The lower the commitment, the lower the outcomes. Again, it is like a bouncing a ball, but on a soft surface. So team leaders need to look beyond team building days to build and maintain commitment. It needs to be included in performance development, performance management and remuneration system.

How do you build and measure commitment?

I can’t give you 7 tips to building commitment or 7 vital indicators of commitment. Commitment is a very individual relationship between a person and a cause. And that’s the key. You want your team to be committed to what they do more than committed to each other. Team building days are great to build rapport, encourage discussion and even arguments which are essential for growth and understanding. But dedicating more time to highlighting the teams contribution to the organisation and society, will in turn help staff recognise their own contribution and importance. No matter who enters or exits the team, staff will remain committed, and this recognition and contribution level needs to be refreshed yearly, and increased. Always plan to extend a team’s contribution, refresh their importance and once again revive the excitement to be there.

Basic social needs of a human also need to be fulfilled to ensure feelings of commitment are validated. Trust, perceptions of fairness, recognition and transparency are all ingredients to not only build commitment but set a strong foundation for it. Again, there are no 7 magical tips, each individual is different and it takes time to build trust and gage perceptions of fairness. However you can always start off on the right foot by developing clear roles and processes for the team to start with. Staff must also recognise what they are responsible for how they will be rewarded before they even get started. Often this level of transparency at the get go will cull out staff who cannot contribute to the team. Staff, and more specifically, adults are innately practical and will consciously decide if they can accept this ‘contract’ as a team member. A psychological contract in fact, again a very individual interpretation of the role, its rewards and its fairness, weighed up against what they want/expect as an individual.

More in the next instalment on teams…

Organisational behaviour as a compass

Organisational behaviour (OB) is generally seen as a core subject as part of a HRM or business degree. But take it in a practical business context and it almost becomes your compass for problems and solutions.

In OB the organisation has 3 levels: individual, group and organisation. The basic idea is that an action or reaction in one level of the organisation will cause an action or reaction in the same and on other levels. Other influencing factors include the external environment which can cause action or reaction in any level, and affects each level like a ripple effect.

Recognising the interdependency of each level provides managers with a stronger basis for problem analysis and solution.

Think of this. A team progresses fast through a project. They finish in time, in budget and with a great outcome. A manager would think, this is a good team, so you give them a new project, same budget, same timeframe, and only slightly more challenging but not outside current capabilities. But they fail this time around.

What was the problem? A manager without the OB filter on may then diagnose that the problem was task was too hard or the team didn’t work well together. A manager with an OB filter would say, these are not source of the problem, they are the symptoms. More diagnosis is required. Look at the individual, group and organisation, think of the psychological, social and political issues that may be at play.

OB pushes managers to think in the shadow system, the unwritten, invisible mechanisms that play a major role in influencing the organisation. So OB managers recognise the need to talk to employees, monitor progress and critique procedures almost daily.

A chat with team members can reveal a loss of morale by individuals who feel their own personal effort was not recognised but shadowed by the group. This is a psychological expectation unmet by the organisations performance management reward system. In turn the group dynamics are negatively affected, reducing productivity. The interdependency is clear and now two possible sources are revealed. The manager should then ask:

  • How many employees have this expectation?
  • Should we change our policies?

So for an OB filter, think beyond what actually happened to find the real source of the problem, and consider the impact of each level.