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Teams part 4

Complaining to team members

Telling people that you are unhappy about some behaviour which impacts on yourself is not easy.
Clearly, you are trying to do this in constructive manner.
You must be accurate with your complaint so that the individual not only knows exactly what you mean but also so that the other person knows what they can do about it.

For example:

“When you made a side comment about my presentation I was upset. I would prefer it if you spoke to me directly after the meeting.”

Team leadership

The leader will direct the activities of the team according to a discussed and agreed schedule.
The schedule will contain milestones with well defined objectives (see The Complete Project Management package).
Milestones are used to break the project down into manageable parts which improve motivation and give opportunities to celebrate success.

For an experienced team this approach will be second nature.
If you have new members to the team it is a good idea to go over the reasoning behind this approach and to reiterate and confirm the team vision (see The Complete Leadership package).

It is always assumed that teams have a leader, usually known as the chairperson.
This doesn’t have to be the case but is the norm.
Without a leader team activity is harder to control.

Also, there is no reason why a team should have only one leader.
It may a good idea to choose the leader at the inaugural meeting of the team.
Many teams are set up with the leader already known.

Why not try having more than one leader?
Change the leader every month or perhaps after you have achieved each milestone.
The advantage of this is that you get more direct involvement from each team member.
This will improve team motivation.
Also, other people gain experience in leading a team which can be invaluable.

It may be the case that the leader initiates agenda items with thoughts of his or her own.
However, it is quite likely that particular aspects, for example, objectives, the milestones and the team vision may well change as the leader encourages discussion. Eventually all aspects of the plan and the schedule should be finalised by the team.

Producing the goods

The first act of any team leader is to try to get the team to act as a unit for each other with no separate agendas.
Once the leader is happy with that aspect he or she can think about getting the team to perform at a high level to achieve its targets.

There is little point in having a team if it can not produce more than the sum of its parts.

A team must be flexible in its thinking and its direction towards achieving its goals.
The chances of achieving a team goal with no problems are zero.
People are not robots and can’t be programmed to react automatically.
As issues arise the leader must steer a suitable course that gets the project back on track.

Many people do find it hard to consciously be flexible and think outside of the box.
One way around this is to give people exercises that encourage this particular skill.

Set behaviours are often controlled by rules and regulations and the way behaviour changes are received.
If the culture of the team is one of blame then people are going to ‘play it by the book’ and not take any risks by suggesting controversial ideas.

It’s about making sure there are no hurdles to creative thinking.

If you have a leader that likes to control with a rod of iron and is determined to get the meeting over in exactly 1 hour, come what may, then the generation of ideas and motivation will be low.
Although an agenda should include timing of items that you should try to keep to rather than going off at a tangent.

To make people want to contribute and enjoy the experience the leader could approach each meeting by providing a unique activity or a change in some other way.
For example:

  • A change of venue can provide an extra spark to a meeting. The venue must make you feel relaxed and be the right size for the team. If the venue is too small the team performance can plummet. Consider going off site and choosing a novel location to maintain interest.
  • You can change the way you run the meeting. We have already spoken about rotation of the chairperson. In addition, you might alter the lay out of the room, change the normal order of people speaking at the meeting, use flip charts (good for a brain storm), play a video that gets the message across (perhaps in a comical way), use props.
  • Always make sure you have an agenda that has been circulated beforehand to all team members. Every action generated must be allocated to one person only at the meeting.
  • Why not ask the team for other ideas for the next meeting (budgets allowing).

When you have got your team together you need to begin to draw up the initial framework.

  • What does the team think great performance should look like?
  • Consider a S.W.O.T. analysis
  • What should the team / organisation look like?
  • How can communication improve?

Remember that the chairperson is not there to direct everything and make all of the decisions.
The team leader is looking for consensus if possible by encouraging discussion. If people do not speak then they will not contribute. By encouraging a variety of methods to get input from people the team will perform to a higher standard.
The chairperson is acting as a facilitator as well as using his or her experience.

The easiest method and often the most often overlooked is to ask for opinion directly from individuals.
Once a team member raises an issue ask others directly for their opinion based on their own expertise.
Having apparently finalised an issue ask if everyone is happy with your summary of the issue and the solution.

In order to stimulate interest and generate creative ideas use different tools.

  • Provide an exhibition, use props, create a play for particular areas
  • Practical stories of successes from ‘zero to hero’
  • Use of videos perhaps with a comical theme to focus on a point