How To Create A Strong Team Environment
There’s no “I” in team, but then again, there is no “boss” in leader either. You don’t need a title to lead others, in the same way that staff meetings to discuss changes that never actually happen aren’t required to create a strong team environment.
In today’s blog, we’re discussing how strong leadership encourages healthy dynamics within your team.
Today’s buzzword – team dynamics. It’s not just a fluffy way of saying people get along.
The truth is that team dynamics are crucial to building a strong team environment, and a keystone in any successful business. It’s a rarity that an employee can realise their full potential alone, and it’s this group mentality that enables them to gain experience, grow their skillsets, and tap into latent talent they might not know they had.
The tricky part is that every person on Earth is different, and so too is the team dynamics that bind and motivate employees. No two teams are the same, so it’s about assessing the team and tailoring a strategy to get the best out of them.
What Are They:
So, a team doesn’t have to be 20 people all seated around a boardroom, it can be any number of people working together – even just two. So long as it’s a collaborative, interdependent effort to work towards a common goal then a team is what you have. The team may be together for just a few hours, or a decade – it doesn’t really matter.
The dynamics part comes from the way that each team member’s working roles, attitudes, and behaviours affect other team members and the team as a whole. Ever heard of the saying “a bad apple spoils the bunch” ? Well, just like rotting fruit, a negative and discordant team member can butcher productivity.
So, a strong team with good dynamics would generally have a deep level of trust between the individuals within the team. Likewise, there is a level of accountability in working towards a common goal that means anyone not pulling their weight can be called out on it, and must answer to their peers. Self-corrective behaviour is a great sign of a constructive and productive team.
Naturally, poor team dynamics are the opposite, and have a huge impact on the creativity, productivity, and overall cohesive effectiveness of the team. You can see how identifying and removing those holding everyone back is perhaps the most important way to create a strong team environment.
Poor group dynamics are caused by some pretty common factors that you would have seen at one point or another in your professional career. Weak leadership often paves the way for a more dominant team member to step up to the plate and take over. This erosion of the manager’s authority results in a lack of clear direction, and subsequent conflict amongst team members.
Sometimes team members might feel it’s easier to just agree with the authority figure, rather than speaking up and actively participating in the group decision making process. This phenomenon is called “groupthink”, where the desire for the path of least resistance, consensus, overrides the requirement to perhaps put forward an unpopular opinion in order to get the right outcome.
Individuals who are aggressive, interrupting, negative, withdrawn, obsequious, or who make a joke of everything go past the point of adding character, and into the realm of interrupting the flow of the team.
There may be those who do the bare minimum work, getting a free ride off the back of other hardworking team members. Conversely, a team member may hold back their idea for fear of incurring the ire and judgement of their peers. Both circumstances create a rather hostile working environment.
Thankfully, there’s a simple process to follow to nip poor team dynamics in the bud and build a stronger team environment.
1 – Diagnose:
Take the time to get to know your team on both a professional level, and superficial personal level. First observe how they work, then schedule one on one, informal chats with each team member that must be kept fully confidential and conducted in a private, safe place.
Only then will you get a feel for where the friction and conflict is stemming from within the team, and go to lengths to resolve the issues and mitigate the spreading of their effects to other team members.
2 – Address:
Don’t let problems fester. Instead, as soon as you see an issue with a team member pull them aside to talk about it, voicing your concerns about the effect it’s having on the team as a whole. More often than not, airing out grievances or conflicts leads to a quick resolution, but in other cases, expulsion of that person from the team may be an unhappy task you need to perform if they consistently show ill discipline and a poor attitude.
3 – Team Charter:
Structure breeds a strong team. By creating a team charter, you have clearly defined each member’s role and what’s expected of them as something to focus on. By getting everything laid out in black and white, you’ve set the bar for both the behavioural standard you’re after, as well as your expectations from each team member. Better yet, it serves as a bit of a yardstick to measure underperforming team members with when holding them to account for dropping the ball. The team charter must be something agreed upon and accepted by the entire team unanimously.
4 – Build:
Team culture is everything. You want an environment that is supportive, and team-building may get a bit of bad press but the bond that non-work activities forge can’t be underestimated. You want each team member to feel comfortable enough to openly communicate with other team mates, and share ideas without fear of being shut down.
5 – Communication:
You need to put a tool in place to promote discussion within the team. This might be something like discussing the success of previous projects (or lack thereof), making a conscious effort to hear the opinions of every team member – even those who may consider themselves shy or quiet.
6 – Attention:
Keep your eyes open to what’s happening in your team. What we mean is be on the lookout for anti-social behaviour like bullying, groupthink and freeriding – and enforce a strict no tolerance policy.
At the same time, reward positive behaviours like trust, respect and support amongst team members, and actions like inter team collaboration, sharing of ideas, and proactively offering solutions to issues before they become a problem.
So, let’s talk about what a strong leader looks like now.
This is someone who values everyone’s input, and recognises that the best approach to an obstacle comes from discussing plans of attack that are diverse, and the results of outside of the box thinking. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
A leader is also someone who is never truly content with their development, or the state of their team. It’s not a bad thing, and is very different to being a perfectionist with unachievable expectations. No, a strong leader is always looking for ways to improve both themselves, and the way the team operates.
Additionally, a true leader will be humble enough to admit when they’re wrong, when they’ve made a mistake, and when they don’t know everything. Team dynamics is an investment for the long term, that can quickly be de-railed by ego trips and self-importance.
Trust is something that takes time, and respect is earned. The fastest way to get your team onside is to just tell the truth, be transparent. As you get more information, share it with your team in an appropriate manner. If something goes wrong, keep them in the loop and allow their support to be the driver behind a group discussion to come up with a solution.
Promoting great group dynamics is the key to creating a strong team environment. Employee satisfaction levels are directly related to productivity, as they say “a happy worker is a productive worker”.
It’s not enough to put in the work at the start when the team is formed, and just hope the status quo is maintained while you set and forget. True leadership is a continual process that requires ongoing observation, and that corrects poor behaviour while guiding team members to realise their full potential.
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