In 1985 Beth was a closer for a mortgage company and it was the very first refinance boom. She and the rest of her team worked almost 80 hours per week the last two weeks of each month, for most of the year. It was “expected” of them if they were to get the loans to closing.
Her team was amazing – while there was some tongue in cheek comments the overall energy of the team was strong and the work got done. If a weak link joined the team and could not handle it, they chose to leave pretty quickly. Beth’s team was absolutely committed to getting the job done and was at the performing stage of team development. Was it always that way? Not a chance! Teams have to develop and grow to a level like Beth was able to get her team to. So how do you get a team to develop?
Here are a few tips on getting teams to move through the process.
- Develop team goals and communicate them plainly – Leaders tend to forget that team members will look to them for the basic in organizational goals. They expect those goals to be strong and the leader as the guiding force. When the team goals are not aligned with the organizational goals, the team becomes disruptive and the storming phase emerges.
- Everyone must know their roles and responsibilities – If an offensive lineman came back to the huddle and told the quarterback how to throw the ball we all know what would happen, so why do we allow others to dictate how we work our positions? It is critical that everyone knows what his or her duties are and how their task relates to the overall team project or goal.
- Don’t allow the gossip mill to emerge – Without doubt someone will always want to start some kind of gossip – maybe it is reporting on misbehaviors of a co-worker or giving their version of communication between others on the team. If this is allowed to happen the team is doomed before it ever gets going. The best way to approach this is by not partaking in this behavior yourself. Even have a talk with the team that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
- Establish effective ground rules – Ground rules like baseball fields will differ from company to company and even department to department. So it is imperative that the team establish their own rules for their team. This can include how to handle approaching someone’s cubical when he/she is on the phone. Or what to do if the bosses door is closed. Do you knock or just walk in? What are your rules? By the way, if the team establishes a majority of these rules then there is a greater likelihood they will be followed.
- Provide feedback – This seems so simple yet it is the one that most leaders get caught in a SNAFU. Feedback is not just the bad stuff, it is also the positive feedback. In fact, why not write this down on your to-do list: “Within the next two weeks I will praise two people in private.” That’s right in private. Too often employees feel like the only time they come into the leader’s office is when they have done something wrong. This will begin to raise the morale of all employees, not just the one you praise in private. If you are praising in public do not stop – just add in the private part.
- Have regular huddle meetings – Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying have a weekly meeting just to have a meeting; be sure there is something worth discussing. In fact some organizations have daily 15 minute huddle meetings to see where things are and share some team successes. The more the team shares the better the team’s accomplishments.
Team building is a process and it is always moving; sometimes forward – and yes sometimes backwards. So your job as the leader is to keep the process moving in a forward direction as much as possible. When you see a backward slide, make sure to uncover what the cause is and correct it early on. The longer you wait the more difficult the fix will be.
Image courtesy of Creative Sustainability