When teamwork works, it’s a beautiful thing. Trouble is, while a united, company-wide approach to business is one of the most powerful success drivers there is – delivering benefits everywhere from innovation and creativity, to efficiency and ROI – it can be tricky to facilitate for a whole range of reasons.
The growing reliance on external contractors and specialists is one such complication, with each bringing their own culture, processes, motivations and politics to the wider team dynamic. Modern managers have a delicate role to play here, providing a conduit between these often disparate parties to keep things on track. It’s quite a skill, akin to international diplomacy at times. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
Another big factor is the impact of the increasingly casual workforce on the physical team environment. Whether in an office, a factory, a worksite or even a retail showroom, historically teams have been able to come together, face-to-face, relatively easily. Today it isn’t so simple. Many team members – sometimes even managers themselves – are no longer physically present on a regular basis. This has a fundamental impact on the ways teams operate. For one thing, it demands far greater planning and organisation. It also creates a heavy reliance on technology to facilitate collaboration and keep the team connected, wherever its members happen to be.
While every team dynamic is different and presents its own challenges, here a few key strategies to keep in mind.
Great teams invariably have great communication. Whether it’s through face-to-face meetings and/or Skype calls, regular WIPs, the use of real-time project management software – or a combination of them all – do everything you can to keep the communication lines open at all times. Encourage people to contribute as equals, speaking openly and sharing their ideas freely with the wider group on an ongoing basis. It’s also important to ensure external consultants have access to the information, data and systems they need – so they can do what you’re paying them to do!
Problems can quickly arise in team situations when the task, objectives or process is unclear. To nip this in the bud, clearly outline roles and responsibilities right up front, and set out defined goals – preferably in writing – both for individual members and team as a whole. With greater focus there will be far less chance of misunderstandings or ‘shifting goalposts’.
It’s inevitable there will be communication breakdowns and differences of opinion. While a certain amount of conflict can be very healthy for a team, be sure all discussions take place respectfully and that a clear conclusion is always reached. In the case of an impasse you may not be able to keep everyone happy, but you must at least ensure everyone’s view is heard.
Chemistry can have a huge influence on the success of any team. Think long and hard about how different individuals, and suppliers, are likely to work together, both from professional and personality perspectives, before engaging them in your project. While you may not be able to avoid all potential conflicts, at least you can be prepared for them. Another thing to consider is how and when to bring your team together. Sometimes it may be wise to use smaller groups (teams within the team) to help keep certain team members apart!
Ultimately, managing a team is a delicate juggling act that will present many new challenges to navigate and overcome. While there’s no single solution, one thing is very clear. As business teams continue to change and evolve, so must the managers who oversee them.
Contact ELR Executive for information on how we can assist your business.