Jennifer Potter, CEO Frankly

Member Article

The Ingredients of an Effective Team

Jennifer Potter - CEO and Founder of Frankly - a Leadership and Culture Consultancy, offers advice on the ingredients of an effective team.

The modern workplace is full of teams; formal teams, informal teams, department teams, project teams, board teams, change teams, people teams, culture teams, staff teams, team building teams… the list goes on.

It’s fair to say that often people find themselves in a team and are often not even entirely sure why they’re in it or what it’s all about. You could argue we are hard wired to be tribal. As Owen Eastwood writes in his book Belonging,

‘We find strength in our togetherness’.

Although I agree that belonging and togetherness are sacred aspects of what it is to be human and live well, I think the term ‘team’ gets over used in the workplace. A group of people hanging out together? We’re a team. A group of people that are part of one community? Yeah they’re a team too.

Well I’m here to tell you that perhaps they’re not.

Sometimes groups of people are literally just that, a group of people. Sometimes a community. Sometimes a working group. Sometimes a tribe. Knowing what you’re in and why can be a really useful first step if you want your ‘group’ activities to be effective.

So what distinguishes a team from other people groupings and how do you build an effective dream team?

Core ingredients that determine an effective team

A group of between 6-9 people With complimentary skills They’re committed to a shared purpose Have an agreed set of performance goals An agreed way that they will work together They hold themselves mutually accountable *based on the work of Katzenbach and Smith

In my experience, most teams fall down because either they try to include too many people, have a woolly purpose or haven’t given enough time to how they’re going to work together.

There are, in summary, just too many assumptions floating around.

How to spot a team going wrong

Imagine a ‘team’, (in the loosest sense, with no purpose or set of agreed working principles).They’re bumbling along doing some average work together. At some point, there’s a disagreement. At this point people may start to realise all is not as well as they thought. Typically, people break off into mini groups so they can ‘take sides’, some get isolated, too concerned about being on the wrong side, some disengage, some throw toys from the literal pram, some just leave. A purpose that was never fully defined in the first place, wafts around like a wet fart, lost and pithy. No one can (or wants to) get hold of it. The team start to get stuck and confused. Everyone’s personal stuff starts to get triggered. Suddenly you’re in a beautiful and tragic power tournament about who’s best placed to rescue us all.

Embracing the secrets

Teams, like most aspects at work have three core parts we need to pay attention to; process, task and relationships. If task is the job at hand (the what), process is the way we will get the task done (how) and relationship refers to the crucial element of how well we will treat each other as we get the task done.

Most organisations pay way too much attention to task and not enough to process (the how) and relationship (the way we communicate with each other).

If you find yourself part of a team but you’re not sure it’s quite working out as effectively as you feel it could, review these diagnostic questions and see if you can figure out which bit needs some attention.

SIZE – Do you have too many people or too little people ? 6-9 is the optimum size for an effective team. If you don’t have enough, the team will feel stretched and if you have too many, the team will feel overcooked. If you have too many, perhaps there are sub teams you could break out into that support aspects of the purpose.

SKILLS AUDIT – is your team a good blend of the skills your team needs to achieve its purpose or are you all trying to do the same role and only achieving part of the task? DO you need to switch up the membership in the team and address some skills gaps?

ALIGNMENT – are you all absolutely clear what the purpose of the team is and is it something that can’t be done by any other team? It also needs to be different to the purpose of the business overall, otherwise you’re just duplicating efforts.

COMMITMENT – are people “in-in” for the right reasons?

WHAT GOOD LOOKS LIKE – if you don’t know what good looks like, you’ll be constantly pulled in different directions and experience a lot of unnecessary conflict. What does the business need you to achieve and how will you know you’ve achieved it?

ETHOS – if I join your team, is it clear what’s expected of me in regard to my behaviours? Is conflict ok? Who makes decisions? Who gets the final say? Do we all have a voice? Can I challenge? What if I have an opinion on someone else’s area? How often will we meet and where? What communication channels do we use? By in large this level of contracting allows people to feel safe to do the work.

ACCOUNTABILITY – what happens when someone doesn’t pull their weight? Are we calling it out and seeking resolution for the good of the team or do we turn the other way?

So if you find yourself in a group of people and you’re calling yourself a team and you can’t say that you’ve got knowledge about the above points, perhaps you need a contracting conversation or perhaps you’re not a team at all and you need to either respectfully end your working time together or find a new purpose.

Maybe you’re a working group, or a community, or a movement. These kinds of grouping have different ingredients that make them effective.

If you ARE a team, give yourself the best chance of success by investing some quality time reviewing these secret ingredients.

Jennifer Potter - CEO and Founder of Frankly

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Laura Batchelor .

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