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Archive for the ‘Team Structure’ Category

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong and Productive

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Leaders cannot assume that teams will automatically police and monitor themselves. Rather, leaders need to regularly audit a team’s performance to ensure that the mechanisms that build overall strength are firmly in place.

The fact that leaders are dealing with human nature makes team behaviors unpredictable and impacted by a number of variables that may or may not be within their control.

A single individual has the ability to undermine and ultimately destroy team strength. Consequently, leaders must continually audit the team’s overall performance. Such an audit requires both time and attention to detail when observing the behaviors, attitudes and levels of participation reflected within the team.

Leaders should audit the following areas on an ongoing basis in order to maintain overall team strength.

Participation

Leaders must ensure both balanced and equal levels of participation exist throughout the team. They must ensure that all individual members participate in the team process and are given equal opportunities to offer their insights and feedback. In this regard, leaders must make sure that no individual team member dominates the environment or is allowed to cow any other participants into silence.

Interaction

Leaders must actively observe the levels of interaction between individual team members. An active team will have open and energetic levels of communication, where members are openly and freely working with one another. Leaders must be aware of whether specific team members seem to be left out of the process, and identify those who may be reluctant to participate, have been intimidated into silence or had their behaviors minimized by more demanding and dominant members of the team.

Level of Development

Leaders must actively monitor the team’s overall level of development and maturity. A healthy team will grow, mature and become seasoned in their actions and decisions. While such development might occur in incremental steps that are difficult to monitor, leaders should take the time to evaluate the progress and growth of the team over prolonged periods of time.

Mutual Levels of Respect

Leaders should be observant for the mutual levels of respect demonstrated by team members. As teams develop, mature, and become more seasoned, the overall respect demonstrated by individual team members should be increasing and readily evident. Leaders must audit for both minimizing and destructive behaviors that reflect a lack of respect and undermine the entire team’s performance.

Depth and Scope

Leaders should also be auditing their team for the depth and scope of their brainstorming and decision making. Initially, teams will be dealing superficially with their projects or topics. As they mature and grow within the process, the breadth and scope of their brainstorming, analysis and decision making should increase and reflect the maturity of the team. If leaders conclude that these levels have not increased, they must take the appropriate action to challenge their team to grow.

Synergy

A sure sign that a team has developed and evolved is the synergy reflected in its actions and decisions. As team members learn to work with one another toward mutual goals and objectives, the overall synergy of the group should expand to the point where the whole becomes greater that the sum of the parts. Leaders who have determined that sufficient cooperation has not been developed should review the five aforementioned areas, as each will impact the overall level of synergy.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment

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Systematic observation and thorough analysis of the team process as it relates to individual members is essential for understanding how teams must shape their dynamics in order to improve overall performance. The team observation and analysis process focuses managers on the various ways individual members interact with one another within the team environment.

Teams respond to issues differently. Responses can result in disruptive conduct such as personal dominance, obstinacy, controlling, outright fighting and a host of other negative behaviors.

Task and maintenance roles allow individual teams to deal with issues and influences in a more structured and productive manner. However, managers must observe how their individual teams interact before and after structures are put into place in order to determine the increase in their performance output and productivity.

The team observation and analyzing process includes the following factors and components:

Membership

Leaders need to understand that individuals who comprise the makeup of an individual team have differences in personalities and backgrounds and that these—along with gender and age differences—all affect the group dynamics within the team structure. Differences in functional backgrounds and commitment to collective goals also contribute to a level of cohesion or overall conflict within the team environment.

Organizational Context

Successful teams need organizational direction, information and resources. Problems can occur when organizational missions are unclear, tasks poorly defined, and teams not given sufficient autonomy. Problems also result when rewards are given to individual members and not collectively to recognize overall team results.

Influencers, Communication and Participation

It is important for leaders to identify the influencers and established subgroups and coalitions within individual team environments. There is a natural tendency for individuals within the team to form alliances to the exclusion of other members, and most team environments will experience their influence and control. Influencers and alliances impact team communication patterns as certain individual input is sought and heard over and above other sources of dialogue, ideas, comments and suggestions.

As within any healthy team environment there is a balance of all opinions and feedback, leaders must be aware of who has the most impact on the team’s actions and decisions and take action to ensure those who have been ignored are heard.

Climate and Personal Behaviors

Leaders must observe individual team members for signs of anger, irritation, frustration, boredom, defensiveness and withdrawal. As within a healthy team environment, individual team members should be free to probe others with regard to their thoughts and feelings – such emotions are indicative of problems that must be addressed.

When reviewing the climate, it is essential for leaders to also determine whether conflict is suppressed or encouraged: solutions cannot be reached unless there is healthy debate and open conflict that allows individual teams to reach their optimal performance levels.

Minority Opinions

In most team environments there will be individual members who hold opinions and viewpoints that run counter to those of the majority. In a healthy team environment, these opinions are valued and sought out rather than suppressed and discouraged.

Leadership

Leaders should monitor the power structure within their teams to determine whether leadership responsibilities are assumed by one person or shared by the entire membership. They should be watchful for power struggles and conflicts resulting from a lack of leadership within the team environment.

Task and Maintenance Functions

Healthy teams have task flow and maintenance roles that are fulfilled by all members. Leaders should determine whether specific roles and responsibilities are being fulfilled competently and accurately, and whether the individuals assigned to these roles and tasks take their responsibilities seriously.

Decision Making

Leaders should be well acquainted with the decision making processes used within their individual teams. Key decisions are generally made during the first meeting, which often then tend to shape and determine progress. These key initial decisions are often hard to reverse. Leaders should also guard against groupthink, where pressure is put on all team members to agree and conform to the actions of the entire team and little or no dissention is allowed.

Conflict

Leaders should encourage useful, healthy and appropriate conflict over substantive issues, while taking time to improve personal relations among individual team members when negative emotional eruptions become apparent. Conflict is healthy only when personalities and personal issues are removed from the issue.

Emotional Issues

All individual team members come to the team setting with personal needs and issues that get played out within the environment, including:

  • Personal identity within the team
  • Goals and needs
  • Power and control
  • Intimacy

Atmosphere

Leaders should monitor the atmosphere created by their individual teams. Within some teams, members may prefer a business-only approach, while in others a more social atmosphere might be prevalent. The atmosphere is also shaped by whether a single individual controls the team or leadership is shared collectively.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Reasons Why Team Communications Can Deteriorate

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Since leaders are dealing with individual personalities in the team environment, it is unrealistic to expect that communication will never break down. Even within the most effective and efficient team environment, issues and situations will arise that will cause an entire breakdown of team communication.

The breakdown of communication in the team environment often occurs when trust and respect are diminished or ignored by individual team members. Breakdowns also occur when chronic conflict has not been resolved within the team.

Another source of communication breakdown is when team members feel their personal interests are stronger than the needs and identity of the team. These individuals are motivated by their personal desires and will do anything to achieve them, including disrupting the team environment.

It is important for leaders to recognize that communication breakdowns will occur within the team environment. In the early stages of team growth, communication problems and breakdowns are more frequent, as individuals struggle to obtain position and retain power in a new and changing environment. However, in more mature and structured teams, leaders will find that the team itself will deal with the communication problem according to its defined boundaries, rules and standards.

Leaders should be aware that a breakdown in communication can have long-term ramifications on the structure and effectiveness of the team. Therefore, it is important for them to recognize potential problems and the symptoms in order to anticipate issues, such as those discussed below, before they occur.

Loss of Trust and Respect

If leaders allow problems to fester and lead to a breakdown of team communication, they will experience a corresponding breakdown of trust and respect among team members that can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore. These circumstances can be fatal to the team and might require the formation of a new team in order to overcome them. Broken trust requires prolonged periods of time to be reestablished. Leaders need to be aware of this and take appropriate action to reduce the occurrence of chronic problems that can result in the loss of trust and respect among team members.

Hindered Free-Flow of Ideas

Once communication has broken down among team members, leaders will observe that discussions become more emotional and subjective rather than objective and factual. When discussions are based on emotion rather than fact, brainstorming will diminish to the point that there is no free-flow of ideas among team members. This effectively halts the team process until the issues causing the breakdowns are dealt with.

Intimidation

Leaders who experience a breakdown of communication observe that certain members will attempt to take control of the team process, subjugating the team to their personal agendas and perspectives. Once done, these individuals will use emotional responses to intimidate other team members into accepting their points of view. This is where the bonds of trust and respect among team members can be broken. The communication breakdown destroys the team structure and subjects it to the will of one or more members.

Bias

Once the breakdown of communication has led to the destruction of the team order by one or more team members, a specific bias is created that supports the personal agendas of these individuals. When members allow the team process to be subverted by particular individuals, they undermine the entire team effort.

Faulty Decision Making

The breakdown of communication in the team environment inevitably leads to faulty decision making. Specific biases that hinder the free-flow of ideas prevent teams from considering all options and alternatives when making decisions. Consequently, decisions are impacted by the biases of the specific individuals controlling the team. In these circumstances, decision making and outcomes will be flawed.

Individuals who have hijacked the team process will use the team environment as a cover to mask their activities when decisions produce faulty results. As they do not want to be held accountable for their behaviors and actions, they will place blame for the decision on the team environment.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:
 
How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a TeamThe Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Negative Roles and Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

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Along with the existence of positive and constructive team roles, negative and destructive agendas can emerge that undermine the ability of individual teams to function and perform adequately.

Negative and destructive roles emerge for a variety of reasons, including personal agendas, resistance to change, immaturity, and lack of motivation and/or team leadership and management.

One of a leader’s major roles is to observe individual team members and watch for destructive and negative behaviors. When problems surface, they need to encourage the team to collectively recognize and handle them within the team environment. If this fails, it is up to leaders to take specific action with the offending individual(s).

Leaders need to be watchful for the following negative roles and behaviors within their individual teams:

Aggressor

The aggressor criticizes everything said within the team environment, and is in effect an active naysayer. He or she has the ability to block the introduction of new ideas and concepts by minimizing and deflating the status of other team members and creating a sense of intimidation. If this behavior and role is not checked it will tend to decrease the team’s overall motivation and subsequent member involvement.

Blocker

The blocker is a dominant personality who automatically rejects the views and perspectives of others out of hand. This individual blocks the team’s ability to brainstorm and discuss the merits of new concepts and ideas raised. Like the aggressor, this individual can be highly detrimental to the team effort as he or she intimidates individual members, limits their participation and decreases overall team motivation and involvement.

Withdrawer

The withdrawer holds back his or her personal participation and refuses to become active within the team environment. This individual focuses the team on his or her immature behavior and attempts to resolve the conflict and unrest it creates, which effectively limits the team’s ability to make progress on problems and assigned projects.

Recognition Seeker

The recognition seeker looks for personal attention and in so doing monopolizes the discussion by continually asserting his or her personal ideas, suggestions and viewpoints. The recognition seeker is also attempting to win the team over to his or her ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, this behavior minimizes other individual team members input, which hampers overall team participation, involvement and motivation.

Topic Jumper

A topic jumper is unable to explore any specific topic in depth. He or she displays a short attention span and continually interrupts group discussions by attempting to change the subject. These continual interruptions diminish overall productivity by keeping team meetings off-focus.

Dominator

The dominator displays threatening and bullying behavior within the team setting. This individual uses intimidating and minimizing behavior in an attempt to take over the team and control all discussions. The dominator will typically “hijack” the team by coercing it to pursue his or her personal agenda.

Devil’s Advocate

While the devil’s advocate in the sense of introducing different viewpoints into the team discussion is a positive team function, it can become a negative role when used to block team progress or consensus. In this regard, the devil’s advocate is simply a naysayer that refuses to allow the team to move forward.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Key Components of Virtual Teams

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A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who, committed to common purpose and performance goals, hold themselves mutually accountable. Virtual teams on the other hand are teams of people who primarily interact electronically and may occasionally meet face-to-face. They include teams of people working at different geographic sites or a project team whose members telecommute.

Virtual teams effectively deal with the realities of time compression, distributed resources, increasing dependency on knowledge-based input, a premium on flexibility and adaptability, and the fact that most of the information they use is in electronic form.

They take advantage of the electronic infrastructure, which enables them to work in parallel rather than serially, having continuous access to the latest and best knowledge and information. This allows individual team members to participate from remote sites without abandoning other aspects of their work and home lives.

The flexibility of virtual teams allows them to bring new team members up to speed through the online record of ongoing work. The fact that they are able to capture their collective work electronically—often in real time—makes it easier for other teams to access their efforts.

This is important since the rationale for virtual teams centers around the differences in time and space for team members. Team members may not be physically connected, so it may not be practical to consistently travel for face-to-face meetings. The fact that individual team members may be working in different time zones and work shifts poses additional challenges for leaders who manage these teams.

Skill Sets

There are four basic components for the success of virtual teams:

  • The selection of the right team members
  • Identifying and communicating a clear and common purpose
  • Developing an appropriate high-performance technical infrastructure
  • Ensuring that the organizational culture supports the information sharing required by the team

Selection of the Right Team Members

Best practices in the management of virtual teams derived from the review of a number of corporate case studies reveal that the virtual team environment is not for everyone. Not all individuals are equally adept at handling the uncertainty and responsibilities associated with virtual teams. Past participants who require a significant amount of structure in their work environment have reported feeling lost in this type of less structured work environment. For the right candidate, virtual teams can provide the freedom, flexibility and challenge to maintain his or her interest.

Managers should choose individuals for virtual teamwork carefully. Individual team membership should be based on the core competencies needed to achieve the desired outcome. However, in selecting the right candidates, qualities like responsibility, dependability, independence and self-sufficiency crucial to the viability of virtual teamwork should be considered. Individuals who possess the needed skills and appropriate temperament should be recruited regardless of standing or title within the company. In many cases, an employee’s manager on one project may be their staff on the next. The bottom line is that virtual teams are developed based upon the skill sets best suited to meeting the project’s requirements.

The Virtual Team Concept

Virtual teams typically follow a three-part model, the components of which capture the essential qualities of successful virtual teams. They represent the capabilities and behaviors needed to succeed in complex knowledge work in virtual environments. The three components include:

  • People
  • Purpose
  • Links

People

People populate small groups and teams of every kind at every level.

Purpose

Purpose holds all groups together, but for teams, the task that expresses the shared goal is the purpose. The purpose should be defined according to the cooperative goals set at the beginning of any successful teaming process. Interdependent tasks enable teams to accomplish the desired purpose initially defined with outcomes and measurable results at the completion of the project.

Links

Links are the channels, interactions, and relationships weaving the fabric of the team as it develops over time. The greatest difference between conventional teams and virtual teams is the nature and variety of their links. It is what makes virtual teams distinctive. The electronic infrastructure accessed by virtual teams makes their distance-related interactions possible.

Trust in Virtual Teams

The world of virtual teams has many benefits in bringing together people of talent, providing international perspectives and saving a corporation the expense of physically bringing the team together.

However, virtual teams can’t work together until trust is established between its members. The dilemma faced by leaders is how team members build trust when they seldom if ever get a chance to meet the other person and observe their actions and behaviors. Before trust is established in virtual teams, individual team members must be able to answer three questions about one another:

  • Value – Do you have anything to offer me?
  • Commitment – Can I count on you?
  • Thoroughness – Will you get it straight?

Value

The initial conversation with a team member is the first place that value is displayed. Before any discussions and dialogue take place, qualifications of all team members should be shared with the team. This may be in the form of a resume, profile or professional listing that all can access.

Individual team members should be encouraged to communicate with each other and learn more about each other’s jobs, their personal goals and what they want and need from each other.

Leaders should inform team members that because most communications will take place electronically, their tone of voice, energy level and enthusiasm does much to transmit the value they are bringing to the team.

Commitment

Participation on a virtual team means that an individual’s work and contributions are not readily observable. This degree of freedom comes with added responsibility for individual team members. There is no one there to appreciate the efforts that one person is contributing to a project. The question becomes whether individual team members are committed to the success of the team. Other team members can only judge by what is related and shown to them. Team members need to be accessible, especially through instant messaging, to remind other team members that they are on the job.

Delivering large projects in smaller pieces is also advisable. Due to geographic constraints, personal commitment to the success of a virtual team takes additional work and increased expectations. It is up to team leaders to monitor the activities and output of individual members to ensure that all are committed to the success of the project.

Thoroughness

In the virtual world the most common response to something going wrong is silence. The burden of any mistake is more likely to fall on the absent person who “didn’t get the job done.”

Virtual team members must take control of their circumstances, double check and follow up more than in a face-to-face world. They must listen for concerns and questions from other team members. They must advise other team members of potential problems before they occur. Attention to minor details is more critical on virtual teams, since they can readily turn into major perceived problems by the rest of the team.

Once trust is established on a virtual team, its benefits will be realized. Things will work more smoothly with everyone sharing a positive attitude. The team will be more productive, respond to more significant opportunities and grow in both capabilities and confidence.

Excerpt: Managing Virtual Teams in the Global Economy: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) 19.95 USD
 
Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 17, 2013 at 10:55 am

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

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A group does not become a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team. This requires discipline that brings the team together with a common purpose, approach and responsibility. This discipline is critical to the success of all teams. Yet, effective teams also have a focus within the organization.

Trust and commitment are the results of individuals working toward a common objective. Consequently, teams enjoy a strong common purpose and approach that holds them responsible both as individuals and as a team for their performance. This sense of mutual accountability produces the rich reward of equal achievement that is shared by all team members.

This topic is of critical importance to leaders because teams are becoming the primary unit of performance management in many organizations. This does not mean that teams will crowd out individual opportunities in a formal hierarchy: teams will enhance existing structures without replacing them. Team opportunities exist anywhere hierarchy and organizational boundaries inhibit the skills and perspective needed for optimal results. Teams have a unique potential to deliver results to the organization in these situations.

Organizations must create the kind of environment that enables performance by teams, individuals and the organization.

Groups established as teams with the primary purposes of job enhancement, communication, organizational effectiveness or excellence rarely become effective. Only when appropriate performance goals are set can the process of discussing objectives and approaches give team members clear alternatives. At that point they can disagree with the goal and the path that the team selects; in effect, they can opt out, or they can pitch in and become accountable with and to their team members.

Most effective teams are classified in one of three ways.

Teams That Recommend

These teams include task forces, project groups, audit groups, quality groups and safety groups that are asked to study and resolve particular problems. Teams formed to render recommendations almost always have predetermined completion dates. Two critical issues unique to such teams are getting off to a fast, constructive start and dealing with the ultimate handoff required to get their recommendations implemented.

The key to the issue of a fast start lies with the clarity of the team’s charter and the composition of its membership. In addition to wanting to know why and how their efforts are important, task forces need a clear direction as to time commitment and the people senior management expects to participate. Management can assist these groups by ensuring the inclusion of individuals with the skills and influence necessary for crafting practical recommendations that will carry weight throughout the organization.

The ultimate handoff is almost always a difficulty for such teams. To avoid this, teams should transfer the responsibility for recommendations to those who must implement them. The more that senior management assumes recommendations will just “happen,” the less likely this will be the case. The more involvement team members have in executing their recommendations, the more likely they will get implemented.

Teams That Make or Do

These teams include people at or near the front lines who are well acquainted with the value-added activities of the organization and responsible for basic manufacturing, development operations, marketing, sales or service. With some notable exceptions, such as new product development or process design teams, these teams tend to have no set completion dates, as their activities are ongoing and continuous.

These teams have the greatest impact on their organization when they focus on the company’s critical delivery points. These are the places where the cost and value of products and services are most directly determined. Performance at these points depends upon combining multiple skills, perspectives and judgments in real time. Here the team option is considered the smartest direction for organizations to proceed.

Teams that make or do must have a relentless focus on performance. Senior management must make clear, compelling demands on these teams and pay constant attention to their progress with respect to both team basics and performance results.

Teams That Run Things

Despite the fact that many leaders refer to the group reporting to them as a team, few groups accept this label. Groups that become real teams seldom think of themselves as a team due to the high degree to which they are focused on performance results.

The main issue these teams face is the determination of whether a real team approach is appropriate to the situation. As many entities can be more effective as working groups than teams, the key is to decide whether individual performances will suffice or substantial and incremental performance through real team products is required.

Working groups present fewer risks in that they need little time to shape their purpose since the leader usually establishes it, meetings are run regardless of prior ties to agendas, and group decisions are implemented in relation to specific individual assignments and accountabilities.

In practical terms, most teams that run things tend to be smaller, usually two to four people.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 10, 2013 at 11:21 am

Strategies and Solutions for Solving Team Problems

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manDelegating

Teams are complicated and complex structures since they are comprised of individuals with different personalities, biases, strengths and weaknesses. Before people can form into an effective team, they must first learn to work together. Participants must work through personal differences, find strengths to build upon, and balance collective commitments against the demands of individual job requirements.

Leaders must deal with team needs arising from the pressures of personal differences, biases, strengths, weaknesses and the demands of the individual jobs apart from the team. Addressing these issues is as important as the team’s task of making organizational improvements. Often both leaders and team members underestimate the need to develop themselves into a cohesive group.

Teams that run smoothly can concentrate on their primary goals. Conversely, teams that fail to build internal relationships waste time on internal control conflicts and unfocused efforts.

It is important for leaders to understand that the more they know what to expect as their teams progress, the better equipped they are to handle difficulties and problems as they arise. This knowledge enables leaders to recognize many problems and work through the ones that cannot be avoided.

The most obvious team efforts are associated with the task of improving a process or solving a problem. This includes holding meetings, gathering and analyzing data, planning improvements, making changes and writing reports. However, when individuals are formed into teams, the complexity of group dynamics seems to inhibit their ability to work well together.

The issues associated with group dynamics include hidden problems, concerns and agendas that create specific undercurrents and distract the team from the accomplishment of its assigned responsibilities. Some of these undercurrents can be seen in a host of conflicting emotions: the excitement and anxiety of being a part of the team; an individual’s loyalty to their department or division; a nervous anticipation regarding the team’s success. Left unaddressed, these conflicts can inhibit the team’s effectiveness.

Leaders must involve their teams in activities that are not directly related to the assigned task, but those that build understanding and support within the team. Only in this manner can leaders resolve these internal issues and undercurrents. Some of the common issues encountered by leaders in these areas include:

Personal Identity in the Team

There is a natural tendency to wonder how individuals will fit into a team. When individuals come together for the first time, there is apprehension, anticipation and questions concerning the value of the team and their contribution to it. These feelings of uncertainty are greatly reduced for individuals who have worked together previously on other projects.

The rest of the issues discussed in this lesson are closely associated with these feelings of personal identity.

Membership Inclusion

There are basic psychological needs associated with membership inclusion. Individuals have a natural desire to be part of a group and are motivated by a sense of being part of something larger than themselves.

Leaders must be concerned about membership inclusion as individuals who feel alienated from the team’s vision and purpose will represent sources of continual conflict until the issue is resolved.

Leaders can enhance membership inclusion with the use of team-building activities and assignments that will quickly unify the team and instill a shared desire to work toward mutual goals.

Influence, Control and Mutual Trust

Much of the apprehension and anticipation of new team members arises from issues of influence, control and mutual trust. Within new teams, these issues will not be resolved until individual members naturally establish themselves and emerge as leaders and influencers.

Mutual trust will not be obtained until individuals begin to work together and become familiar with each other’s personality differences. Deadlines, team pressures and external crises increase team members’ reliance on each other, foster trust and build team cohesiveness.

Mutual Loyalty

Loyalty is built upon mutual trust, respect and cohesiveness. Leaders can utilize these factors by developing and enforcing guidelines and boundaries that establish a foundation on which to operate. Without these guidelines, leaders will discover that individuals tend to dominate and intimidate other team members. Such domineering tendencies will destroy loyalty and trust, and greatly inhibit the team’s ability to operate effectively.

Relationship Between Team Members

While there are always exceptions to the rule, most people want their team to be successful, and as such, will cooperate toward that end. However, people are often personally concerned with the tone that will characterize the team, namely whether it will be friendly and light at times or all business. Additionally, members want to know whether they can be open or have to be guarded in their comments and about the team’s ability to work together to resolve issues. These are specific issues that need to be addressed by the leadership of the team. The group dynamics resulting from the influence and control of leaders and the guidelines enforced by the team, should be dealt with accordingly.

Organizational Identity

Team members will usually identify with their departments and divisions. Their apprehension lies with any conflict that may arise with team membership. When conflict develops between group and departmental loyalty, leaders will see their team’s effectiveness diminish.

As teams must also build relationships with the organization, it is critical for leaders to identify influential individuals who can champion the team and its projects. Leaders will find that this is a critical element in developing organizational support. The more visible a team’s contribution, the more motivated team members will be since there is a payoff in increased perceived value of their success.

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ $17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

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When team results lag, leaders must closely examine the team culture. The culture is established when the team is initiated and is defined by its charter, mission, norms, roles, responsibilities and performance goals. An effective team will define: specific performance goals, a work-product and a set of challenges to overcome and milestones to meet.

The team culture will define how and what the team will produce. Poor performance can be attributed to many areas including team:

  • Leadership
  • Norms
  • Roles
  • Responsibilities

However, most often a lack of team performance is the result of poorly conceived performance goals or a lack of clear understanding of what the team is to accomplish. Both are closely interrelated and will create a faulty team structure, which will lead to either a lack of results or ill-defined results that have little or no value to the organization.

A well-defined and performing team should be producing an output that has identifiable value to and for the organization. In other words, the output of the team is greater than the sum of the individual contributions of the team members. To achieve this, teams must be focused on the attainment of specific performance goals.

Effective team results and reliable outcomes are the result of the establishment of a firm team foundation from the outset of the team’s creation. When teams develop their charter and mission they are also setting the performance goals that establish the tone and aspirations of the team. In this fashion teams develop their direction, momentum and commitment by working to shape a meaningful purpose. Part of that purpose is defined by the results and outcomes the team is expected to produce when its work is completed.

If team performance lags or is ineffective, one must review the initiation points of the team, how it defined itself, and the work it planned to produce. The areas that need to be explored include:

Specific Performance Goals

The establishment of specific performance goals is an integral part of the team process. This assists the team to shape a common purpose that is meaningful to all of the team members. Performance goals should be compelling and challenge teams to make a difference. In addition, they should be linked to the charter and mission of the team and achieve its purpose in a meaningful way.

Upon its creation the team should immediately establish a few challenging yet achievable goals early on to build confidence and feelings of success. These goals should be both measurable and capable of assessment.

The Team Work-Product

The team work-product is different from both the organizational mission and individual job objectives. It requires equivalent contributions from all of the members of the team. This process should not be minimized or it will result in future problems for the team.

Assigned tasks and assignments that make up the contributions of the team should be completed by the team members and not delegated or reviewed by them. While staff support may be required, team members should perform the majority of the assignment, so that they acquire firsthand knowledge of the output that they produce. This develops respect, trust and accountability between team members.

The use of delegated work limits both the commitment of team members and their appreciation for its content and contribution. It also minimizes the insights and the innovative potential of the team. If team output lags, this may be a critical point of investigation.

Performance Goals

Performance goals should be clearly stated and understood by team members. When this happens discussions focus on how to pursue the goals or if they should be changed. When goals are ambiguous or non-existent, discussions are less productive. Teams will spend time revisiting issues and problems without making meaningful progress.

Attainment of Performance Goals

The attainment of specific performance goals assist teams to maintain their focus on getting results. If a team doesn’t attain its desired results and outcomes it can often be attributable to the team’s failure to establish specific performance goals. Further, the establishment of specific performance goals allows teams to create a series of small team wins that builds the commitment of team members.

Performance Objectives

Teams should establish specific performance objectives. In so doing they will allow for clear communication between team members and create constructive conflict to discuss issues and develop solutions.

Summary

As the reader can clearly see, many of the performance failures experienced by teams are the result of inadequate planning and preparation at the time the team is initiated. Proper performance goals, objectives and work-related outcomes must be clearly defined and understood if they are to be realistically attained. Any attempt to short-circuit this process will only create future problems. This will result in the team having to revisit their foundations in order to successfully accomplish their mission.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series.(Majorium Business Press , Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

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Problems can arise throughout team development and management, but leaders must pay particular attention to the structure and focus of the team. There are many potential pitfalls associated with establishing a team’s mission and focus. These foundational problems can linger and hinder the team’s performance.

Teams can encounter many problem areas during their tenure, but most challenges arise during the establishment of the team. Without a strong foundation that includes a focus, a mission, rules, boundaries and objectives, teams will encounter chronic problems.

It is important for leaders to understand that team productivity will be diminished without a firm foundation. From the outset leaders must invest time and effort in team development to ensure long-term success. This process includes establishing a clear understanding of what to avoid to prevent future problems.

Quality improvement is a common task given to teams. Organizations with teams in this area often stumble into pitfalls and produce poor outcomes. The selection of the wrong process for a team to work on is the main cause of inappropriately focused teams.

Selection of a Project No One Is Interested in

As organizations assign and develop teams for various projects, one common problem stems from selecting projects neither managers nor team members are concerned about. Consequently, the project will likely die from inattention. Often individual team members are assigned to several teams, and will only focus their attention on the projects they are interested in.

Often the only motive that sustains the effort of the team is the commitment of its members. If uninterested in a project, individuals will resist it, hampering the team’s ability to meet and work together effectively. When leaders develop new teams, the projects they assign should be meaningful to the active team members.

Selecting a Desired Solution

Leaders tend to think they already know which improvements need to be made before a team meets to study a problem, analyze it and make recommendations. Consequently, they pick a solution for the team to consider rather than have it look at the larger quality improvement process. This tendency does not empower teams to come up with changes and improvements, and their creativity is held back. As a result, the most creative and effective solutions may not be brainstormed, recommended, analyzed, studied and considered, and the team’s effectiveness and productivity are diminished.

While the leader’s predetermined changes may in fact turn out to be the best way to proceed, teams should be allowed to arrive at their own conclusions, and be free to recommend actions they determine will yield the greatest success.

Projects in Transition

As companies evolve, many processes and projects are in transition. It is wasteful to assign a team a project or process that is undergoing transition or is scheduled for change. The exception here is if changes occur in a process because of the team. In such a case, the team’s resources can be effectively used to study and evaluate the process and determine the best changes.

Selecting a System

Managers often delegate projects that are too ambitious and that should be broken down into smaller components. Properly focusing teams on particular elements of a project facilitates a better chance of success. In this manner they can concentrate their efforts and make recommendations that are easily implemented. Once improvements are made in one small area, teams can methodically move on to other areas. This method allows them to build on their successes and, ultimately, to impact the entire system.

Improper Framing of the Problem

When problems are properly framed, team operational boundaries are defined. But teams can frame a problem too narrowly or broadly.

Broadly defined problems can create projects that are too vague or difficult to label. Consequently, teams quickly find they have neither the time nor resources to deal with such projects. Potential solutions also become broadly defined, ineffective and difficult to implement.

Narrowly defined problems create ineffective solutions. Tight parameters prevent teams from exploring all aspects of the problem and its possible solutions. The final solution can result in issues and concerns that are ignored but should have been considered.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

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Critical team success factors consist of specific elements that are particularly valued for obtaining the best results possible. These tend to reflect five major key areas that include team leadership, shared vision, attitudes and commitment, mutual trust, and team collaboration.

If team critical success factors are not addressed or implemented correctly it will result in a failed team project. They are considered required and necessary for successful team project execution and improved team communication, focus and energy.

If applied and monitored consistently and judiciously, the critical factors of success will allow any team to achieve a high level of capability. Each has an impact on the major processes of: innovation, problem solving, decision-making, and implementation. These processes are the way the team applies its capabilities to get product results.

The First Critical Factor of Success: Leadership

Every team needs a leader who is able to focus its members on a project’s mission, purpose and goals. This individual must be committed to the team’s results and must be willing to be held accountable by the team’s sponsor and other stakeholders for leading the team through processes that ensure its goals are attained. The job of the team leader is to get team members to successfully evolve through each successive phase of a project life cycle. This implies that a keen awareness of the state of the team must be monitored and maintained. In addition, the milestones and long-term goals must be consistently reviewed with the team as a whole. A good leader makes sure that progress becomes the “property” of the group.

Effective team leadership is one of the most important factors for team success and positive results. This is because it tends to have the strongest impact on all aspects of team performance. Team leaders are responsible for engaging each team member in the processes of the team and building a platform of mutual trust that leads to: open debate, collaboration, individual commitment, and personal accountability.

Team leaders set the tone of the team and create the environment within which team members interact and do their work. In addition, they also support and influence key success factors that shape the team’s internal environment and structure. This in turn determines the team’s capability or capacity.

Some key success factors may be beyond the control of the team or the team leader. Such as, higher authority may select the team leader. Or, senior management may determine: team size, arrangement, and perhaps technology and resource support. However, most of the success factors fall under the team’s control and can be developed by it.

The Second Critical Factor of Success: Shared Vision

A shared vision is held together by a sense of passionate interest and value. At the same time it needs to focus on practical aspects such as:

  • Everyday problems
  • New tools
  • Ideas
  • Developments in the field
  • Things that work and other things that don’t

The first step in establishing a shared vision is to identify a related goal that makes a strong impact for and on change. This goal must be more complex than a simple definition and contain:

  • A challenge;
  • An appeal to personal pride;
  • A sense of needed comradery;
  • A call to action that provides an opportunity for the team to make a real difference, and know it.

Only if this can be done effectively will the goal become a powerful vision.

The Third Critical Factor of Success: Attitudes and Commitment

Attitudes and commitment are what make a significant difference in the eventual success of an assigned team project. It is the collective membership of a team that literally decides to succeed. This takes a positive attitude and a strong sense of commitment on the part of all team participants. However, once this mindset is attained it becomes a self-directed impetus for forward movement and goal attainment.

A genuine desire on the part of the team to be successful comes through the evolution of a shared attitude and commitment among the team members that the project will succeed no matter what. This attitude is both powerful and sustaining. An example of this belief comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who stresses: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Teams that think they can are able to sustain their levels of commitment and positive attitudes by actually visualizing the project at its successful state of completion. In essence, team members are able to create the frame of mind necessary to get them through the inevitable obstacles that can be expected to emerge during every complex development stage and effort. Conversely, teams that lack positive attitudes and commitment effort will be stopped dead by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. It all comes down to the difference between doing difficult, creative thinking when it is necessary, or to simply accept defeat because the solution tends to require too much effort.

In some cases, a team literally decides to fail as in the book Peopleware, where Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister coined the term “teamacide.” This is where team participants plainly make a conscience decision, without openly addressing it, to cause the project to fail. This may be the result of personal conflicts, technical or departmental frustrations, or a lack of support.
Whatever the reason, the team undertakes a major negative shift in attitude, which becomes devastating to the team process as well as to the project itself.

Oftentimes even if only one individual develops a negative attitude, other team members become exposed and follow along. Before long, everyone on the team “catches” varying degrees of negativity and a loss of enthusiasm and commitment. The only truly effective remedy to overcome this is the attitude of the team leader, who must remain disciplined enough to guide the team through its various drops in morale.

The Fourth Critical Factor of Success: Mutual Trust

Mutual trust is considered to be the most important element of successful teamwork. As part of a team’s self direction, it is trust that enables the team to engage in open debate and decision making that leads to “a commitment of action” on the part of individual members of the team.

At times it is easier to instill and establish trust than it is to sustain it. Building high levels of trust requires an openness that allows team members to know and understand the beliefs and behaviors of all members of the team, so that team actions can be structured to take advantage of each member’s uniqueness and talents. As part of the process it is important for team participants to develop an understanding of how individual members of the team view themselves and how each responds to others within the team.

Teams thrive on trust. One of the main dynamics of a self-directed team is that part of its structure, practice and principles require that members ask for and offer help to one another to initiate and maintain mutual caring and sharing. Having open, frank and supportive discussions generates a strong bond and a sense of connection and trust among members.

Sometimes elements of trust become formalized within team guidelines and standards, which helps to sustain it. But often these elements simply remain “what everyone knows” about good and positive team practice. In the course of helping each other and sharing ideas, and collectively solving problems, “everybody” tends to become a trusted group of equal peers.

The Fifth Critical Factor of Success: Team Collaboration

An effective team consists of team members who are actively involved and engaged in the work and focus of the team. This requires all team members emotionally commit to actively and openly participating in the team’s processes and in the pursuit of the team’s goals. Each separate team member must willingly commit to carry out action plans that are necessary for the team to reach its defined goals. Each must also be dependable and willing to carry the full weight of personal responsibility to complete his or her individual commitments according to deadline.

An actively engaged team member tends to enthusiastically support others, which adds greater value to the team itself. When enthusiasm becomes combined into a high level of synergy, it is much easier to prepare and implement team processes. Because of the team’s ability to engage everyone in a positive manner, it also becomes part of the team’s self-directed focus to find solutions to issues and challenges both from an individual and team standpoint. All members will constantly seek to improve themselves for the benefit of the team and will refuse to quit or give up until the goal is attained.

The power of teamwork dynamics is engaged when team members come together to focus collectively on goals, issues, challenges, and problems. Team leaders must carefully manage the processes of team meetings in order to maximize the power of the collective knowledge and skills of the team members. As part of the collaboration process, more effective teams tend to follow a meeting methodology that both focuses on dealing with issues requiring the team’s attention and maximizes the power of collective knowledge and the skills of the team members.

Collaboration works to help establish personal accountability. Team goals will usually not be realized until individual commitments are completed and team members embrace a discipline to complete their commitments as scheduled. Through personal collaboration team members must agree to hold each other personally accountable for completing the commitments each person has made to the team.

Barriers to team and individual progress will occur in every team effort. However, collaboration works to effectively remove barriers and hurdles to ensure progress toward team goals and keep the team running smoothly and proactively. A highly collaborative team will make certain that each team member continuously reports the status of their open commitments to the team, so that barriers to completion can be identified early on. This allows the team leader and other team members the opportunity to deal with certain issues before overall milestones, timelines and deadlines are impacted.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 25, 2013 at 10:22 am

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