Team Development: Intersections of opportunities and challenges

Ever considered why you will find teams everywhere and why Team Development is an essential topic?

Of course not, because you already know why teams exist; synergy. Synergy leads to productivity, productivity leads to benefit!

But the productivity that creates such benefit is linked to, or limited by, the effectiveness of the team, and possessing a thorough understanding of the factors that determine the effectiveness of the team, is what every manager should desire (I know this is grammatically clumsy but it is nevertheless valuable counsel).

Warning: I value your time, so I advise you that this is a longer blog than my usual offerings. Hope you get something worthwhile out of it.

Teams are regularly formed because attractive opportunities exist. Opportunities rarely appear without challenges. Challenges require solutions.

Team Development, means developing the right team with the right objectives, at the right time with the right participants, including the right leader, provisioning it with the right resources, empowering it with sufficient authority and ensuring it is appropriately accountable.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But if it is so simple, why do so many teams underperform? Before addressing the development aspect of team development, let’s consider what a team is made of. What forms a team? What is the substance of a team? We should try to articulate exactly what a team is; explanations, surely that’s one advantage of a blog.

There’s an old cliché acronym I imagine most of you would have heard that states “Together Everyone Achieves More”; unfortunately familiarity may have camouflaged its brilliance. This is a powerful and significantly insightful hypothesis.

Let me postulate its make-up.

Together: This word, and its placement, tells much. Firstly it’s plural; it demands a team to be made up of more than one. It may need one (or more) to lead it, but such need is a product of the inherent fact that it is a collective of a minimum of two. Secondly, ‘together’ suggests inclusiveness, richness and completeness; an embracing of the concept that there is power in the multiple. Thirdly, ‘together’ implies being of one mind or purpose; to be committed to a focused objective. Fourthly, its placement ensures its cornerstone importance to the outcome of the statement. It makes what follows dependant upon its existence and success; that is ‘everyone achieving more’ will depend on ‘how’ together the team is. You can’t have successful team development if you can’t create a team that is ‘together’.

Everyone: This is all about the recognition and value of the individual; recognising that each person is there for a specific reason and thus illuminating their value and contribution potential. It acknowledges individuality, skills, gifting and experience. It’s a spectacular word in its context here. Broken into ‘every’ and ‘one’ further amplifies its importance and justifies its existence, in that ‘every’ aspect of a person is considered and that, of all the possible candidates, they are the ‘one’ that got selected to perform their role. You can’t have successful team development if you don’t select the right individuals.

Achieves: Rather than babble on by quoting several synonyms (although the ease of that is tempting), I will place appropriate emphasis on the importance of the actions that cause achievement. Those who follow my work, know that I believe business, no matter its type or practice, has finite components; Purpose, People and Processes. Well in this context, ‘Together’ would highlight the Purpose factor by defining its intent and objectives, ‘Everyone’ is clearly the People factor and ‘Achieves’ is the Process, or list of processes, by which such intent and objectives are realised. You can’t have successful team development if you can’t get them to achieve.

More: This is all about results and outcomes. It guarantees a measure greater than otherwise would be expected. More products through more productivity, more service, more benefit. It advocates improvements; improvements of products, improvements of services, improvements of performance. It indicates additional, multiple outcomes that deliver higher, larger benefits. You don’t have successful team development if the team doesn’t produce more.

Therefore having considered what a team is, let’s move to the development focus of team development.

Team Development: the essential keys.

  1. Purpose: Why does the team exist? What are the specific objectives? Is there a tangible timeline (a sunset date) for the team? The team’s purpose needs to be articulated and easily communicated.
  2. Design: This is a key area where the greater the investment now, the greater likelihood of success the team will have. What will the team look like (culture)? Who will interact with the team (communication)? Who will the team report to (accountability)? What autonomy will the team have (authority)? What will the team’s costs be linked to (profitability)? What factors will necessitate individual needs on the team (diversity)? Who will choose the team (responsibility)? How flexible will the team need to be (reality)?
  3. Selection: What are the specific roles required? What minimal and/or specific essential experience? What skills? What gifts? Who should be on the team? Who will be on the team? The difference could be availability, interpersonal relationships, behavioural incompatibilities, etc. What methods of selection will be adopted? Who is responsible for the team’s selection?
  4. Agreement: Is everyone selected buying into the team’s purpose, is everyone totally on the bus? How have you qualified this? To what degree do the proposed team members understand the purpose? What education of it, has been delivered? This is a critical step but sometimes overlooked, in achieving desired outcomes.
  5. Commencement: Culture is created early, so be the creator of culture by strategically celebrating the team’s formation and setting the expected communication and behavioural practices. Plan what will be necessary, in the team’s infancy, to mould the team together into a cohesive and focused group of results-orientated winners.
  6. Leadership: Having selected a leader (or leaders which will be task dependant) enable them with resources to lead well. Ensure (check) they understand the individuality of each member. What methods of leadership and management will be required to maximise outcomes for this specific team? What forms of communications will be adopted?
  7. Empowerment: There are two aspects of empowerment to consider here, firstly the collective. Any team that is hobbled by a lack of authority and encouragement is likely to fail. Determine what authority is required and who needs to be made aware that such authority exists. Secondly, individual empowerment. Ensure every member of the team understands what is expected of them and then explain, as necessary, only those exceptional and essential limits or boundaries.
  8. Management: Here I’m referring to external management of the team. What observation strategies will be appropriate?
  9. Motivation: What will best motivate this team? If the first answer is singular, think again. Teams require multiple forms of motivation, due to the inherent human individualities and the uniqueness of the collective team. This is a great opportunity to use behavioural profiling to create a team profile.
  10. Monitoring: You might see this as part of management (part 8 above) but I like to separate it. I see monitoring as the accountability component of team development. Regular external reviews of performance, culture, obstacles, motivation responses and relevancy deliver good outcomes and can prevent or dilute disasters.

In conclusion, team development is probably the single largest time consumer of senior management in corporate life. Having just read back over the contents of this blog, I realise that I have only barely covered the importance and comprehensive nature of team development.

Hope you got something useful from this blog (again, sorry it was lengthy).

Question: Do you have a good team development story? If so, please share it with us.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Alternatively, I always appreciate constructive comments on team development.

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