How do your people know that they are a ‘Team’?

It may sound like an odd question but when you are thinking about team training it is always worth asking yourself whether the individuals are ever really treated as a ‘team’.

Of course they know they are a team, after all they all sit in the same area under a sign that says ‘Finance Team’ or ‘Sales Team’ or ‘IT team’.

But really that’s just lip service.

Research shows quite clearly that people work best as part of a shared enterprise, one with shared goals and an understood view of the overall aim.

Just being told ‘you are a team’ doesn’t make people behave like one.

The art of team management is to get a group of disparate individuals to work at a level which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Why on earth does this make a difference?

All the evidence shows that bonding people together as part of something bigger than themselves actually reduces staff turnover (and we know how expensive that is).

There’s also really good evidence that when people are working together as a team rather than as individuals they actually become much more efficient.

So how can you foster a ‘team’?

I’ve seen all sort of whacky theories over the years but I’m only going to include ones that actually work.

Understand your aim

What’s the point of your team?

What are you aiming to achieve?

By when?

Have you told anyone?

If you don’t know what you are supposed to be achieving then your team won’t either.

If you do know, but you haven’t told people then that’s worse than useless as you’ll have people working to all sorts of agendas

Sit down, work out what your eventual aim is for the team and then introduce it at your next team meeting.

Tell people where they fit into the whole

Engagement is increased massively if people know what their individual role is.

Letting people know how important they are to the team boosts morale and more importantly lets them know that they can’t let the side down.

Make time to get together as a team

Seriously, what’s the point of being a team if you never sit together and discuss the issues that are facing you?

How do you formulate a shared understanding of the upcoming workload, performance and future direction?

I like to have weekly 1-hour team meetings where we go through how we’ve done and what we can expect to happen shortly.

What’s interesting is that although these start out in a really stilted manner, after about three or four meetings they start to be really productive in unexpected ways.

Invest and train individuals but also invest in the team

A great way to foster team cohesion is to have shared learning opportunities.

This can be as simple as one person from somewhere else in the company coming in to speak about what they do and what issues they face.

This works super well for getting your team more integrated into the company as a whole too.

Praise your team in public

Make sure that if your team has done something really well then you tell people about it

and make sure your team see you telling someone about it.

Stick up for your team

Now I’m not suggesting that you go around picking fights but if something comes up that is contentious and you are absolutely in the right then I say fight your corner

and again make sure your team see you sticking up for them

Take any excuse to have a bit of a social

It’s so difficult today to make time to get together outside work but if you want to develop a team with a really strong bond then you need to get them to like (or at least respect) each other as individuals.

I like to take random opportunities to take my team out for lunch.

So maybe we finish an audit successfully. I’ll take them off down the pub and buy them lunch.

It’s not going to break the bank and a couple of hours out of the business won’t make much difference to the company but it means the world to people who rarely get thanked for doing their job.

Make sure you invest in team training

So I would say this right? After all, I’m selling team training!

But don’t take my word for it there’s plenty of academic and anecdotal evidence that investing a small amount of money into team training makes people more effective and reduces the dreaded turnover.

Oh, and while we’re about it, don’t just get some team training, start off with some proper, effective management training too!

The overall message is…

Team management is actually a job.

So if you were a decorator you wouldn’t expect that a wall would just suddenly paint itself without you putting in any effort, so why should you expect a team to manage itself without you actually doing any ‘management’?

Management isn’t hard but you do need to put some effort in and you need to think about it.

And you also need to take my first-time manager course!

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