MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
December 2015
Creating Effective Teams
Image Source: blogs.warwick.ac.uk

Working with teams can be the best of times or the worst of times! Fundamentally, teams change the way people on the team relate to each other, to the organization, and to management. When individuals are in teams, they are empowered - they are set free. And since it is difficult to "cage up" teams, teams can become entities unto themselves.
 
The elements of a good team include the following:
 
  • They are goal-driven
  • They share objectives
  • They operate in a climate of trust and openness
  • They share a sense of belonging to the team
  • They value diversity
  • They are encouraged to be creative and to take risks
  • They meet the goals of the project
 
With these elements in place, along with appropriate project timelines and funding, teams can be outstanding performers. However, sometimes teams run into roadblocks and have an inability to identify the need for change. In the words of Dee Hock, "The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out." To demonstrate this, fold your hands in a prayer position. Notice which thumb is on top. Now try the prayer position with your other thumb on top. How does this feel? If you're like most people, this feels unusual, perhaps even uncomfortable.
 
Keeping this demonstration in mind, now imagine trying to implement a change across your organization. It can be tough!
 
The requisite for change is that the team needs to be convinced first that this change is necessary in the first place. If some members are convinced, but others not, this difference will influence the team dynamics.
 
The secret to improving team dynamics is in helping the team switch from intuitive (or traditional) thinking to counterintuitive (or long-term) thinking. The best way to do this is to understand each team member's behavioural style in order to understand what makes them "tick." And the way to understand their style is through an inventory of personal style such as the Myers Briggs Inventory or a "True Colours" inventory. By having this inventory ahead of time, you, as the project leader/manager, will understand how to best engage your team member. Here is an example of how to apply the True Colours inventory.
 
  • Red team members - these are problem solvers and they need opportunities to perform, but they also need praise for their achievements and recognition for their performance. How do you motivate reds? Give them more challenges, another opportunity to be in the middle of the problem, so they can demonstrate their skill. 
  • Green team members - these individuals need structure and they need to know the purpose of their work. Involve them in decision making and praise their insights. They work best when given boundaries within which to work. 
  • Brown team members - these individuals are practical and conservative. Their strength is in knowing what they want and what needs doing. However, they can steamroll others to get there. Handle browns by giving them consistent feedback, and let them organize things. Reward them with public recognition. 
  • Blue team members - they are the "emotional" people. They don't like conflict and appear to be loners to others. The best way to work with blue team members is through one-on-one personal contact. They like small talk first to indicate that you are interested in them first.
 
Ultimately, your team needs each type of behavioural style to be successful - the reds, greens, browns and blues. Build your team by spending time with each of them one-on-one so that you can get them to trust you and you learn about each member and their behavior style. Knowing their behavior will help you relate to them more effectively. This will create a positive team dynamic and enable your project to be successful.
Using Teams to Implement Change Initiatives
 
In my experience in working with organizations that chose to implement change initiatives on their own, I have learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to implement change. Most of the organizations that tried to implement change on their own failed. The major reason: Communication and staff engagement were minimal, at best. 
 
To enable successful change management, I like Kotter's change management approach. This includes the following seven steps that I find to be very effective.
 
  1. Create a sense of urgency (and this isn't about creating a frenzied work environment of endless meetings!). This is about creating more communication in the workplace to explain the change initiative and may include a web page dedicated to the project, regular e-mail blasts about the change initiative, a bulletin board to solicit feedback, perhaps a Facebook page, or other techniques through in-person or social media connections. John Kotter, one of the world's leading experts on change management suggests that for change to be successful, 75% of a company's management needs to buy into the change. No matter what you're setting out to accomplish, if you want to succeed, you need management by your side. If you have 75% of company's management on your side, you have created a catalyst for the change initiative. 
  2. Find effective and powerful change leaders in your organization. These change leaders are at all levels of the organization. Sometimes I find that the best change leaders are the people at the very bottom of the totem pole. They tend to see and hear much more of the 'daily grind' than those in the upper positions. As such, they are well positioned to recruit supporters for organization-wide change initiatives. Smart leaders recruit from the bottom of the organization chart for successful change initiatives.
  3. Build and communicate a vision for the change initiative. Why is the change important? What impact will it create for the organization? If you aren't certain about the answers to those questions, it will be difficult to communicate how the change will impact the organization or how the change will be implemented. Work with the change leaders in your organization to develop the strategy and then walk the talk. Communicate your change strategy, so that staff understand the organization's common objectives. What you do is far more important and believable than what you say. Demonstrating the kind of behavior that you want from others in your organization will impact the success of the change initiative.
  4. Remove obstacles to change. This means converting the organization's resisters and continually checking for barriers to change. Empower your people to execute your vision by recognizing and rewarding those that make change happen; and help the resisters through coaching.
  5. Create quick wins during the change process. This will motivate you and your staff. If you have a huge project planned, don't wait until the entire project is completed five years down the road to congratulate everybody for good work completed to-date. Look at, perhaps, every three or six months to do casual get-togethers and reward those people that have really made a difference to the project. You may be pleasantly surprised at how little it takes to truly motivate an entire workforce.
  6. Continue building momentum. A Harvard study showed that the failure rate for change initiatives is two out of every three. What this indicates is that it is very important to keep building momentum for the project until the change initiative is solidly grounded in 'maintenance' and is no longer in 'development' or 'project' mode. After every milestone is reached in the project, analyze what went right and what needs to occur to keep improving. That's how you build and maintain momentum.
  7. Integrate the change initiative into the organization's culture. Once the project is implemented, it becomes part of routine and is integrated into the organization's culture. However, keeping the change initiative "on the agenda" is an easy way to ensure that the change is no longer new. It becomes engrained into daily routine and, as a result, change is successful.
 
Successful leaders breed successful organizations and create effective change. As a successful leader, what are you doing to ensure that you are implementing these steps to effect successful change management in your organization?
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
A recent team experience has re-confirmed my theory that leaders need to be more aware of and involved in ensuring that teams function well. If you're a leader, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your teams, and your organization if you put together a random team and then expect them to manage on their own. Sure, Tuckman's model of group development will gradually shape the team, but why take a chance that your team members will end up loathing working together when all is said and done? Lead your team and help them form a good working relationship right from the start. Use personality tests to ensure you've got the right mix of team members to start with and provide the necessary support to ensure not only a successful project, but a successful team relationship. It is not a wise leader who puts together random teams and then walks away, hoping for the best. IMHO.
 
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.."
- Henry Ford

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