I have been working with a new non-profit team of leaders these past few months. This team has a mixture of long-time members as well as brand new members that represent the diversity of the organization. The challenge is that the expectations are extremely different for the various cohorts which can lead to moving down alternative roads. It is not usual to hear comments like:
“We always followed these steps and it worked.”
“Not being involved in the financial process created distrust with our last team situation.”
“Is there a point where we are now being overly transparent?”
“We are not sure what are the real priorities with the constantly changing global environment.”
We have all seen the evolving dynamics of our teams in our workplaces. Of course with many of our remote teams today, the interactions can be far from interconnected. When teams stay together for periods of time it can be either a high performing situation or result in group think. But when teams are shaken up due to a need for change, there is often an adjustment period. Thinking back to how teams form according to psychologist Bruce Tuckman there are four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The timing of moving through these stages is different for each team, yet most teams I have worked on or worked with seem to align with these phases.
What does it look like to begin a new team? How can a new team begin its journey to ensure members will be highly connected at the same time of turning out the highest level of deliverables?
Here are five team building go-to actions:
1. Build A Diverse Team of Leaders
If an organization wants to be innovative it is essential to have teams with different backgrounds and skills. I don’t say this lightly as I have seen too many teams get stuck because of their homogenous nature. Early on when I built my team, I made sure to include leaders with different demographics and expertise. This new team needed an overhaul and that meant thinking of what skills, experiences and personalities were most important.
2. Make The Team People Focused
Critical to forming a new team is making sure there is time to get to know one another. When a team cares as much about its members as it does about the clients, the team will be highly successful. When I work with companies on developing their leaders and teams and the focus is on the customers only, there will be less accountability and trust. A leader can cultivate a people focused strategy by:
- Beginning each meeting or interaction, whether in person, remote, email or phone by asking how their colleague is doing.
- Listen carefully to understand what is being shared.
- Validate concerns rather than making a team member feel embarrassed.
- Include suggestions and ideas offered in a final plan.
3. Put Trustworthiness As A Top Priority
The team I am working with now has a big problem with trust and that is impacting every decision and action. When colleagues can trust each other projects and information will flow more easily. There will be less redundancy of work. The entire work environment will feel safe, whether we are in person or remote. Build trust by being dependable and respectful.
4. Be Clear On Each Member’s Role
If everyone on a team is clear about their role and the roles of others, there will be meaningful and agile work performed. If each member understands what is expected of them, there is less room for confusion or error. In fact, I would argue that clearer roles leads to innovation and risk-taking. To develop role clarity:
- Write out responsibilities and tasks for each person.
- Ask for input from team members of areas they are uncertain or places they would rather spend time.
- Revisit the role every few months to make adjustments. See what is working and what isn’t working.
5. Practice Healthy Conflict
The ultimate sign of a highly functional team is how they handle conflict. There is toxic conflict where nothing but bitterness is exchanged and healthy conflict where change occurs. With the team I am working with, conflict was not dealt with in a healthy way with the old team members. The new team members are modeling professional and respectful ways to disagree. What a difference.
What additional team building go-to actions do you or your team use?