Tuesday 15 March 2016,

Leading a team can be challenging. It takes time and a lot of energy. It’s demanding – mentally and emotionally – and more often than not we find ourselves puzzling over how to balance the individual needs of our team with the strategic needs of the business.

Learning the ins and outs of effective team development can’t be done in just one morning, but at the March PM Forum breakfast event Nick Pope(Academy of High Performance Teams) and Paul Amit (Nabarro) discussed the ingredients of successful teams and how to achieve organisational, team and individual objectives. Here are their key takeaways.

1. Be a team, not a meeting

Many teams function more like a ‘traditional’ meeting and less like a group of individuals collaborating to achieve shared objectives. The challenge is to move your team from a state of competition to one of co-creation. Visit http://www.aohpt.com/high-performance-teams/new-teams/ for more information on this.

And, for teams physically located in the same office, where individuals sit can also affect how ‘teamly’ your team is. As leader, don’t assume that the status quo is the optimal arrangement for team collaboration.

2. Encourage your team to challenge each other

A good team leader creates meetings where people leave the meeting feeling more energised than before they joined the meeting.

A team generally produces its best workwhen the individuals are able to disagree with each other’s ideas. They need to be comfortable with a (healthy) level of tension, and to know that when they put an idea forward, someone might shoot it down and someone else might build it up. And that’s ok. Good things happen in a team environment of constant challenge.

Strive to create a team culture that energises and challenges.

3. Add a bit of ‘uncomfortable excitement’ to the mix

How do you get your team to challenge each other when it’s not something they (or you) are used to doing? Nick suggested that to create this tension or ‘uncomfortable excitement’ as he called it, you should deliberately introduce difference in a team meeting without it becoming personal:

  • Put an extra chair at the table. The chair should represent someone who isn’t there. While discussing a particular issue, get your team members to voice what they think the ‘chair’ would say.
  • Use the pre-mortem technique. For a particular project, get the team to imagine it’s 12 months on and the project has been a disaster. Get each team member to tell their story of what went wrong.

4. Apply the six practices of high performance teams

Great teams that successfully deliver results and ‘co-create’ all tend to have:

  1. A sense of purpose - what is the unique contribution that only this team can achieve together?
  2. Energy - the team is a place where people are renewed, not broken down.
  3. A clear mandate – the team knows what the stakeholders expect them to deliver.
  4. Clearly defined goals, objectives and roles.
  5. Collaboration – to build the right team culture and dynamics, underpinned by trust.
  6. Strong connections – take the time to expose your team to market best practice, introduce them to key influencers outside the team, and help them create networks.

5. Get to know the individuals

Your team is a work team, working in a corporate world. But at the end of the day, you’re dealing with people. As Paul explained, everyone comes from a place - where you come from in life influences how you think and operate. Can you as the team leader understand your team members and their journeys? It might not come naturally to you to start the conversations that will give you this insight, but it’s critical to building a successful team. It creates a connection between you and the individual, and it empowers your team members.

Judy Armstrong
Thirdperson – great content, made simple