AN effective manager, who is in essence an effective leader, can follow various steps to assist in the process of building a quality team. However, unless there are defined processes in place for the development of learning cultures, all other stages of development will fail.
The task of building a team requires that each member of the team approaches the teambuilding exercise with an attitude of “what can I learn” and “what will my contribution be worth”.
Members of the team need to be encouraged to approach the exercise with an open mind. They must feel from the outset that their individual contribution is meaningful, worth listening to, and if appropriate, used and acted upon.
Managers and supervisors should be capable of taking what may be inappropriate suggestions or ideas, and tactfully asking the team to rethink and further expand in a more detailed proposal at the next meeting.
This will encourage participation and make the team member feel the idea is worthy of consideration. At the same time, the team member will be encouraged to re-consider the idea and come back with a more formalised and well thought-out proposal.
This approach becomes part of the learning experience - and all can benefit.
From the outset, the manager or supervisor becomes a leader and not a boss. Active participation is encouraged and team members are made to feel their contribution is appreciated. Team members will be excited to be part of a constructive and open group where all ideas, good or bad, have merit.
Here are some ideas to assist:
Describe the team’s purpose or what it is you are trying to achieve
Who are your potential customers or clients, and how will you create value for them? When people are clear about the purpose of their work, they are better able to understand their manager’s concerns. When they are not clear about their purpose, they don’t feel part of a team.
Let people know who the team members are and how their roles relate to each other. When roles are unclear, people don’t feel empowered to take responsibility and team members may end up encroaching on each other’s territory. This can lead to conflict and will certainly undermine teamwork. It is important that you choose the right person for the right position in the team. Without the right level of competency, team members will not be able to perform effectively.
Cultivate a climate of open communication. You can never communicate too much in a work environment where communication relates to progress and/or problems. The best teams have the most open communication and don’t avoid creative conflict. Managers need to allow debate and constructive input by team members. Once a decision is made, each team member must support that decision and work toward what has now become the common goal. Managers must seek the views of team members, even if they don’t like what they hear.
Relationships deteriorate when managers play favourites and people feel they are not being treated fairly. The secret here is consistency. Trying to get employees to compete against each other has its consequences. If a manager cultivates this kind if competition, it will likely lead to distrust and undermine teamwork objectives.
Evaluation should be ongoing in an environment of continuous and honest dialogue; rather than it becoming a bureaucratic process.
Poor performance can and should be noted in open discussion sessions with employees. These performance discussions need to be constructive so as to avoid conflict between the manager and the employee.
Evaluation, unfortunately, takes place after the event - and recording poor performance serves no purpose at this stage; it’s too late.
Rather look at the poor performance as a teaching or learning opportunity, and make the exercise of discussing poor performance something constructive.
Evaluations should always take place as a means to improving performance.
When you create a learning culture, you will encourage employees to take responsibility and to assist and support one another. Your employees can share their experience and learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. Good ideas can be discussed, acted on and rewarded.
Developing a learning culture starts at the top of an organisation. If supervisors are afraid of making mistakes because they might be punished, and if their roles are unclear or they are confused about the company’s purpose or objectives, they will not be in a position to develop effective teamwork.
This sixth step assists in the creation of an organisation that learns.
Relationships can only be sustained in an organisation that has values and a code of ethics to cultivate trust and stimulate learning. The failure of top management and of HR and training personnel to understand this, is the main reason why improving teamwork remains a top issue for management consultants.
* Des Squire is the managing member of AMSI and Associates