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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘team performance

What You Need to Build Strong Teams

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planning

A team is defined as a small number of individuals with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, approach and set of performance goals to which all are held mutually accountable. A more detailed examination of this definition will further elucidate strengths of the team approach.

The fact that individual member efforts and overall group performance are inextricably linked makes the team the most productive performance unit an organization has at its disposal. The team is collectively responsible for specific results and will achieve them provided the performance ethic of the company is strong enough.

Within teams, each specific member’s commitment to the common purpose in a set of related performance goals is of paramount importance. Each individual must believe the team’s overall objective has a direct bearing on the success of the company and must collectively keep each other honest in assessing the results relative to that purpose.
There are a number of elements that give teams their internal strength. These include:

Size

Research has shown that most teams range from 2 to 25 individuals; however, the average number is less than 10 members. Smaller teams tend to be more effective, as larger numbers of people have trouble interacting constructively as a group. Large teams are also less likely to reach timely agreements on the actionable steps required to move the team forward. Often large groups defined as teams tend to break themselves down into smaller sub-teams that are responsible for more secondary aspects of the project or problem.

Complementary Skills

In order to be effective, teams must be comprised of individuals who have the right mix of skills in three areas.

  • Technical or Functional Expertise – Team members should possess the appropriate technical or functional know-how required for the team to accomplish its goals or objectives. Specific expertise is defined by the breadth and scope of the problem and the capabilities required to resolve it.
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making Skills – Teams must be able to identify any problems and opportunities that arise. They must be able to evaluate available options and make necessary trade-offs and decisions before proceeding. Therefore, it is important for the majority of if not all team members to possess advanced problem solving and decision making skills that will allow them to effectively move the team forward.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Teams depend on effective communication and constructive conflict resolution. These abilities depend on the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence of individual members, including respect, active listening and empathy as well as the ability to handle criticism, remain objective, take risks and build trust. As leaders appoint members to their team, common sense should guide them in selecting individuals with the necessary complement of skills to achieve the team’s purpose. While many teams are assembled based on more subjective personal criteria or according to a formal position description, these interpersonal areas should be considered first and foremost when selecting team members.

Common Purpose

Teams develop direction, momentum and commitment by working to shape a meaningful purpose. Effective teams invest extensive time and effort in exploring, defining and agreeing to a purpose that belongs to them both collectively and individually. Once achieved, this gives teams an identity that reaches beyond the sum total of the individuals involved. This identity keeps conflict—something both necessary and threatening to teams—constructive by providing a meaningful standard against which to resolve clashes between individual and team interests.

Common Approach

As teams require a common approach, or how they will work together to accomplish their purpose, individual members must agree on who will do specific jobs, how schedules will be set and adhered to, what skills need developing, how continuing membership is to be earned and how the group will make and modify decisions, including when and how to change it’s approach to getting the job done. The agreement on operational specifics and how they integrate individual skills and advance the team’s performance lies at the heart of shaping a common team approach.

Mutual Accountability

A team is not viable until it can hold itself accountable. Teams enjoying a common purpose and approach inevitably hold themselves individually and collectively more responsible for the team’s performance. Teams further develop specific performance goals to provide clear yardsticks for accountability.
Accountability provides a measure of the team’s quality of purpose and approach. Groups lacking mutual accountability for performance have not shaped a common purpose and approach that can sustain them as a team.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Self-Directing Teams Place Responsibility Where Work is Performed

Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment

What Is Involved in the ‘Teaming Process’

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Boosting Team Communication:  Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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.

September 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

How to Analyze Your Team’s Expectations and Outcomes

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smallgroup9

In general, the purpose behind analyzing whether team expectations are being met is to promote, enhance or improve something within the team itself to help overcome or prevent specific problems, weaknesses or hindrances.

When analyzing expectations, it becomes important to focus on three types of project-related outcomes: team knowledge, team processes, and the deliverable. Team knowledge includes understanding team terminology, concepts, and relationships among team actions and results.

Team processes are the steps utilized to create a desired deliverable or end product and include: professional attitudes, self-awareness to know when project steps are executed, and self-control during transitions between project-related steps. The deliverable or end product is what is created as a result of team project activity—such as a plan, method, system, document, or process to meet specified needs.

When it comes to predicting, defining and interpreting a team’s results, outcomes and expectations, there are specific skills that should be applied, which tend to cut across all team-related roles. There are four basic questions individual members need to ask themselves before determining if team expectations are being met:

  1. Am I learning what I need to know?
  2. Am I applying what I have learned?
  3. Am I a good role model and expert?
  4. Am I able to teach others to know and apply important team functions, best practices and group dynamic applications?

There are a multitude of reasons why teams may wish to evaluate their performance, including:

  1. Identify accomplishments.
  2. Evaluate if leadership is shared and effective.
  3. Identify team strengths.
  4. Identify points of team weakness.
  5. Analyze team strengths and weaknesses
  6. Identify group dissatisfaction.
  7. Identify low morale.
  8. Identify confusion of team purpose.
  9. Identify drop in participation.
  10. Avoid team stagnation and demise.

Predicting, defining and interpreting a team’s results, outcomes and expectations and their combined effectiveness can be accomplished through a number of assessment and evaluation resources, including:

  • A complete index or listing of definitions that detail outcomes, which multiple audiences can refer to such as organizational employees, upper management, and/or sponsors
  • The drafting of performance criteria for examining team-related outcomes
  • The application of performance review tools for providing timely feedback and for planning developmental actions intended to improve team performance
  • Providing oral presentations and reports to organizational employees, upper management, and/or sponsors

There are very specific success factors that a team must analyze to determine if it is able to obtain, or is obtaining the results it wants:

The Team’s Ability to Organize

Analyze the team to see if it is:

  • Establishing a system to communicate standards of excellence
  • Delegating tasks and responsibilities
  • Aligning people and resources to present information where all audiences can understand key points and issues

The Team’s Ability to Prioritize

Make sure the team is:

  • Researching information
  • Focusing on issues that are most critical to the success of the project
  • Taking into account the feasibility and the relationship to the goal, blocking time to evaluate
  • Categorizing issues and reprioritizing if necessary
  • Identifying the steps to be taken
  • Identifying the necessary issues to be addressed and placing them into an appropriate order

The Team’s Ability to Analyze

Ensure the team is diagnosing and clarifying issues/data by:

  • Gathering the most relevant information
  • Recognizing broader implications of issues/data
  • Drawing logical inferences
  • Examining interrelationships between all alternatives
  • Making decisions that have the greatest positive impact on team outcomes and its deliverable

The Team’s Ability to Manage Time

Check if the team is using time effectively for tasks that are to be completed, including:

  • Establishing priorities
  • Preparing project timelines
  • Monitoring and managing resources
  • Allocating time for the team to work
  • Reviewing updates
  • Thinking about its next action steps

The Team’s Ability to Question

Is the team effectively using questions, which consists of:

  • Formulating open-ended questions that increase awareness of situations
  • Requesting clear, concise information that achieves desired results
  • Providing opportunities to analyze data that results in finding root causes
  • Creating a nonjudgmental, open and creative environment

The Team’s Ability to Facilitate

Make sure the team works collaboratively to help define its overall goals and specific objectives by:

  • Utilizing effective group dynamic skills (questioning, clarifying, paraphrasing, summarizing, consensus)
  • Applying problem solving skills (assess needs, set expectations)
  • Identifying skills and a timeline
  • Analyzing data to help team members create plans that assist them to accomplish and meet desired results and time frames

The Team’s Ability to Present

Check if team members prepare clear, concise, well-organized deliveries of information by utilizing effective oral communication skills such as:

  • Speaking clearly
  • Varying voice volume, pitch and pace
  • Displaying high levels of energy and enthusiasm
  • Applying effective eye contact and body language
  • Engaging the team audience
  • Emphasizing key points

The Team’s Ability to Verbally Communicate

Analyze by incorporating the above skills, to see if the team is able to clearly and accurately explain and articulate its:

  • Mission/vision
  • Ideas
  • Procedures
  • Policies

The Team’s Ability to Make Sound Decisions

Is the team:

  • Using the scientific method to recognize and define a problem
  • Facilitating effective ways to access and collect relevant information
  • Reviewing and evaluating alternative solutions or actions
  • Selecting the best choices and following through with the implementation of decisions

The Team’s Ability to Problem Solve

Ensure the team is creating effective and appropriate solutions by:

  • Employing analysis skills to synthesize and apply relevant information/data
  • Breaking down and clarifying the problem
  • Defining the desired outcome(s)
  • Investigating options and alternatives
  • Selecting the solution that will have the greatest positive impact in the present and for the future

The Team’s Ability to Generate a More Functional Environment

Check if the team is:

  • Selecting and developing members based on individual and group skills
  • Identifying and leveraging personality types to complement their strengths
  • Managing conflict
  • Creating team roles and expectations resulting in group capacity to facilitate win-win situations within the team setting

The Team’s Ability to Implement and Measure

Is the team executing and overseeing its action plan through:

  • The preparation and alignment of expectations and resources
  • The assessing of results against outcomes
  • Removing barriers
  • Identifying strategies for continuous progress
  • Communicating results to stakeholders

The Team’s Ability to Manage Conflict

Ensure that team members use effective techniques and practices to respond to conflict through:

  • Skill and sensitivity that results in presenting one’s position in adverse circumstances
  • Seeking to understand those with whom one disagrees to win acceptance
  • Shaping opinions
  • Earning respect
  • Identifying areas of common concern

The Team’s Ability to Research

Check if the team is:

  • Effectively accessing information from various sources
  • Analyzing and testing effective solutions that result in better performances, which are based on scientific study, case studies and best practices
  • Developing a network of experts both inside as well as outside of the organization
  • Reviewing necessary and applicable journals, books and trends
  • Utilizing experiential data and best practices
  • Conducting external and internal informational scans

The Team’s Ability to Strategically Plan

Make sure the team is developing strategies to achieve higher levels of performance and project outcomes by:

  • Prioritizing critical goals
  • Identifying and prioritizing success factors
  • Translating broad strategies into clear objectives
  • Allocating resources
  • Anticipating risks
  • Identifying constraints
  • Understanding issues that impact team performance

The Team’s Ability to Make Continuous Improvements

Check if the team is continually making improvements in processes and areas of performance by:

  • Scanning the team environment continually to determine what can be done better
  • Creating a team environment where risk taking is accepted and rewarded
  • Establishing a process where information and lessons learned can be shared
  • Tracking the progress of key steps and milestones within the project and innovative ideas that can be readily shared

The Team’s Ability to Provide Positive, Constructive Feedback

Ensure the team is providing and using positive and constructive feedback to:

  • Instill a sense of confidence in others
  • Model behaviors for replication
  • Help others attain higher levels of performance
  • Set up action plans for improvement
  • Aid in initiating a team environment of trust and accomplishment

The Team’s Ability to Collaborate

Is the team seeking the involvement of others by including them in:

  • All decision making processes
  • Establishing and building the team’s shared vision and goals
  • Identifying ways to foster good give-and-take relationships, discouraging “us vs. them” thinking
  • Building a team environment where the contributions of all members are valued

The Team’s Ability to Plan

Ensure the team is developing plans and processes by:

  • Translating strategy into specific goals and objectives to support the team’s vision
  • Identifying team capacities
  • Establishing clear, realistic timelines
  • Identifying specific action steps and accountabilities
  • Identifying, testing and confirming assumptions in the team’s strategic plans

The Team’s Ability to Manage the Project

Make sure the team is effectively monitoring its ongoing progress by:

  • Tracking progress through clearly set goals and timelines
  • Developing specific objectives, milestones, and outcome guidelines
  • Identifying resources and budget
  • Establishing specific responsibilities for collecting and/or tracking
  • Presenting critical variables related to the project
  • Effectively communicating evaluation standards, timelines, expectations, and individual follow-up procedures
  • Scheduling meetings for follow-up and review

The Team’s Ability to Delegate

Check if the team trusts others to take responsibility that is meaningful, important and interesting by:

  • Providing necessary individuals with sufficient authority and resources to accomplish assignments
  • Treating team and work failures as learning opportunities
  • Personally evaluating themselves on the willingness and ability to delegate
  • Identifying barriers that may likely hinder the ability to successfully complete the delegated task or project
  • Creating comfort levels for others

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

Related:

Self-Directing Teams Place Responsibility Where Work is Performed

Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment

What Is Involved in the ‘Teaming Process’

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Boosting Team Communication:  Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Vision is the Faith By Which the Leader Functions

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leaderinchair

Napoleon once remarked, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Adapted to the corporate environment, this statement might read, “Vision is the faith by which the leader functions.”

Leadership vision is one of the major characteristics defining a leader’s identity and, in the end, reputation. Trust in one’s leader and his or her vision enhances positive leadership outcomes, including overall improved job performance, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

A leader should generate a vision similar to that which inspires his or her employees in terms of clarity, challenge, and future orientation and inspiration. Employees need to be encouraged to share the leader’s vision and use it to guide their daily operations. The leader should motivate and empower employees to pursue and attain the vision set before them.

The question employees typically find themselves asking when a leader begins to define and implement action steps to attain his or her visions is: “Can we trust you not to abuse the privilege of authority?”

Credibility as a leader ultimately depends upon perceived vision-related integrity—namely, keeping one’s word and commitment, not taking advantage of personal influence or authority, or manipulating employees into embracing the vision the leader wishes to attain.

Leaders able to maintain a persistent belief in their vision are further considered extremely competent by their employees and seen as a contributing resource rather than force to be opposed.

The depth and detail of a leader’s vision demonstrates his or her level of expertise. Expertise is needed for legitimacy, employee respect and making the vision a reality.

As leaders are involved in decision making all day long, the quality of their decisions is compounded over time. Effective leaders who stand by their personal vision generally make prompt, wise and accurate decisions, even under unimaginably difficult and confusing conditions and situations.

Having a higher level of expertise makes a leader become very pragmatic. The leader tends to see things in realistic terms, which helps to identify and develop strategies that are able to cut through to the core of problems and negative situations relatively quickly. This aids in quicker vision realization.

Expertise is acknowledged and respected when a leader effectively projects his or her vision by explaining to employees the purpose, meaning and significance.

In addition to demonstrating decisiveness and expertise, clearly defining the vision and adhering to it serves the leader by enhancing team performance, generating healthy conflict, and driving overall change.

Enhanced Team Performance

Defining a vision through clarifying roles, goals, and the way forward is a proven means of increasing team performance.

The quality of the relationships employees develop (and the people with whom they develop them) is influenced to a large degree by inward assumptions about their leader’s vision. When those assumptions are based on faulty generalizations, misunderstandings or misinterpretations, the quality of employee relationships suffers.

Factors that contribute to forming strong relationships across differences are affected by individual sets of experiences, beliefs and expectations. Vision has the power to generate positive experiences with others and realistic expectations of them. It helps to develop and maintain positive social identities through a process of molding individuals into a unified collaborative unit that shares the same beliefs, goals and outlooks.

In essence, if properly communicated and then embraced, vision positively shapes the way employees and leaders interact with one another. It helps to generate a type of “social identity” or a perception of oneness through shared and valued personal and work-related characteristics and goals.

Vision Generates Healthy Conflict

A visionary leader is often viewed as one who makes up his or her mind, then remains intractable and unmovable in direction and expectations. This perception tends to generate conflict and resistance.

The extent to which conflict emerges is dependent upon two factors: the strength of the visional expectation, or agreement between employees’ perceptions of the steps needed to attain the vision and the leader’s own expectations, and the outward attitudes, expressions, or behaviors the employee and leader display in embracing the vision and its directional courses of action.

When the two factors above are addressed, where persuasion and a sense of purpose and positive self-benefit are emphasized, feelings of harmony and balance typically replace levels of uncertainty, insecurity and resistance.

When leaders experience conflict, their ability to reduce or eliminate it will always depend upon how well they communicate their expectations both initially and over time.

Vision Drives Organizational Change

The need for change is normally stimulated by an external “trigger” necessitating a modification of some kind. Connecting the vision to this needed change typically forces the organization out of its status quo, alters values and attitudes, and establishes balance and stability.

Acceptance of change and related implementation procedures is loaded with human-related difficulties. Vision enables leaders to achieve higher levels of “buy in” by overcoming employees’ anxiety over changes, their personal uncertainty and lack of ownership of initiatives and their outcomes.

Leaders understand the culture and capabilities of their organization, and use it as the basis for the embracement of visional change. This change is further effected by:

  • Selecting key employees who tend to display unique leadership qualities to be project facilitators or unit directors for various assignments or tasks.
  • Working with small groups of employees and mentoring them in various assignments and tasks as it relates to their visional impetus and direction.
  • Creating ways for those involved in the change to share successes and failures.
  • Using discussion group cycles or brainstorming to move their visional direction and strategic objectives forward.
  • Developing small-scale achievable targets in order to introduce change or build small successes from them.
  • Encouraging both themselves and their employees to be innovative as well as to engage in more productive behaviors in the workplace.
  • Managing change proactively, by focusing forward movement on implementation and action rather than formal competence building.

Related:

Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storms

Visionary Leaders Are in a Different Class

Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

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

The Five Characteristics of Strong Teams

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A team is defined as a small number of individuals with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, approach and set of performance goals to which all are held mutually accountable. A more detailed examination of this definition will further elucidate strengths of the team approach.

The fact that individual member efforts and overall group performance are inextricably linked makes the team the most productive performance unit an organization has at its disposal. The team is collectively responsible for specific results and will achieve them provided the performance ethic of the company is strong enough.

Within teams, each specific member’s commitment to the common purpose in a set of related performance goals is of paramount importance. Each individual must believe the team’s overall objective has a direct bearing on the success of the company and must collectively keep each other honest in assessing the results relative to that purpose.
There are a number of elements that give teams their internal strength. These include:

Size
Research has shown that most teams range from 2 to 25 individuals; however, the average number is less than 10 members. Smaller teams tend to be more effective, as larger numbers of people have trouble interacting constructively as a group. Large teams are also less likely to reach timely agreements on the actionable steps required to move the team forward. Often large groups defined as teams tend to break themselves down into smaller sub-teams that are responsible for more secondary aspects of the project or problem.

Complementary Skills
In order to be effective, teams must be comprised of individuals who have the right mix of skills in three areas.

  • Technical or Functional Expertise – Team members should possess the appropriate technical or functional know-how required for the team to accomplish its goals or objectives. Specific expertise is defined by the breadth and scope of the problem and the capabilities required to resolve it.
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making Skills – Teams must be able to identify any problems and opportunities that arise. They must be able to evaluate available options and make necessary trade-offs and decisions before proceeding. Therefore, it is important for the majority of if not all team members to possess advanced problem solving and decision making skills that will allow them to effectively move the team forward.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Teams depend on effective communication and constructive conflict resolution. These abilities depend on the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence of individual members, including respect, active listening and empathy as well as the ability to handle criticism, remain objective, take risks and build trust. As leaders appoint members to their team, common sense should guide them in selecting individuals with the necessary complement of skills to achieve the team’s purpose. While many teams are assembled based on more subjective personal criteria or according to a formal position description, these interpersonal areas should be considered first and foremost when selecting team members.

Common Purpose
Teams develop direction, momentum and commitment by working to shape a meaningful purpose. Effective teams invest extensive time and effort in exploring, defining and agreeing to a purpose that belongs to them both collectively and individually. Once achieved, this gives teams an identity that reaches beyond the sum total of the individuals involved. This identity keeps conflict—something both necessary and threatening to teams—constructive by providing a meaningful standard against which to resolve clashes between individual and team interests.

Common Approach
As teams require a common approach, or how they will work together to accomplish their purpose, individual members must agree on who will do specific jobs, how schedules will be set and adhered to, what skills need developing, how continuing membership is to be earned and how the group will make and modify decisions, including when and how to change it’s approach to getting the job done. The agreement on operational specifics and how they integrate individual skills and advance the team’s performance lies at the heart of shaping a common team approach.

Mutual Accountability
A team is not viable until it can hold itself accountable. Teams enjoying a common purpose and approach inevitably hold themselves individually and collectively more responsible for the team’s performance. Teams further develop specific performance goals to provide clear yardsticks for accountability.
Accountability provides a measure of the team’s quality of purpose and approach. Groups lacking mutual accountability for performance have not shaped a common purpose and approach that can sustain them as a team.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about team building techniques, refer to Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

July 19, 2011 at 11:30 am

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