Teams are essential to life as we know it. They are so important that we start learning how to work on teams in preschool.
Think about some of the most important moments in history, landing on the moon, the discovery of penicillin or the invention of the light bulb. All of those moments have at least one very crucial factor in common: they were all accomplished through the work of a team of brilliant minds.
Teams bring together various skill sets, diverse experiences and expertise and unique problem solving skills. Teams can solve problems faster, make better decisions and solve more complex problems than an individual can. In short, well-functioning teams can outperform individuals, increase productivity and improve morale. The key word in that sentence was “well-functioning.” That is where most team experiences go wrong.
A blog posted by the University of Vermont defines a productive team as follows:
“All teams are groups of people who share a common goal, but not all groups of people who share a common goal are teams. Just calling a group of employees a team does not make them a team,” said Markey Read, a professor of career development workshop at UVM.
Just calling a group of employees a team does not make them a team.” – Markey Read, University of Vermont
“Teams are comprised of individuals who operate with a high degree of interdependence, share authority and responsibility for self-management, are accountable for the collective performance, and work toward a common goal and shared rewards. A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.”
Read said that to be a productive team, “mutual respect and understanding between team members is essential. Issues must be addressed, some employees may need to leave or be given new opportunities within the organization, and managers need to be leaders, not just technicians.”
At Vive, we have discovered that the two biggest reasons teams fall apart are trust/safety and a lack of accountability.
“A healthy team doesn’t worry about who is right – they worry about getting the end result right,” said Alex Bowen, Vive co-founder.
“That means they can engage in the productive discomfort of conflict and disagreement, while still maintaining the alignment towards a common goal. Accountability and safety are really two sides of the same coin. There needs to be a balance. If you start to see the culture slip too far one way or another that’s often when red flags start popping up.”
When your team fails to cultivate the chemistry that leads to performance or, when the environment turns toxic, employee morale decreases and productivity goes down. Managers need to step in to make adjustments before the ship sinks.
Vive suggestions managers should take the following actions to get your group back on track.
Now is the time to clear the air and remind your team of your team’s values and expectations. Clarify roles and responsibilities and discuss as a team how you will navigate difficult moments and differences of opinion. Take this opportunity to talk about accountability and how team members can support each other.
According to an article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
It is easy to look beyond ourselves to find the problem, but some of the issues could relate to the way you manage your team.
If your team members feel uncomfortable critiquing you to your face, create surveys that allow them to share their opinions anonymously. Be sure to share the feedback to the entire team and tell them how you plan to improve.
An SHRM blog said that high-performing teams are generally led by high performing leaders.
Essential leadership qualities include the ability to :
“There is widespread agreement that effective team leaders focus on purpose, goals, relationships and an unwavering commitment to results that benefit the organization and each individual.”
If you have completed the steps above and there is still a problem, specifically with certain team members, it’s time to face the problem head on.
Ideally, you would have been giving feedback all along and any critique you give won’t come as a surprise, but either way, you need to deal with behavioral issues. Be very specific about actions you don’t approve of and give examples of how that behavior is hurting the team and productivity. Ask for a commitment to improve, and if improvements are not made you will need to take steps to remove the person from the team.
SHRM’s blog said conflict management is an essential part of becoming a high-performance team. Open communication in such teams means a focus on coaching instead of on directing and a focus on the ability to immediately address issues openly and candidly. The key to team performance is open lines of communication at all times to provide motivation, maintain interest and promote cooperation.
Vive co-founder Alex Bowen, says that the key is to find a balance between results-only and safety-only cultures.
“Results only cultures often result in fear-based leadership, where people are afraid to take risks or offer new ideas. Employees adapt to these environments by devising different ways to meet the results wanted by the company,” Bowen said.
“Safety-only cultures end up creating an environment of “nice,” which on the surface sounds great, but often times doesn’t lead to the best results, and in fact can burn some people out who want to progress projects or initiatives,” Bowen said.
“The key here is to be purposeful and think about both accountability and safety and what works best for your team or organization and find the sweet spot. Netflix has a great culture – but you couldn’t just take their culture book and plug it into Zappos and vice versa.”
Feel like your team is starting to Fizzle? Contact ViveTeams today to get back on the right track.