Teamwork

As a manager and leader you really want your team to be empowered to make their own decisions, but that does not happen overnight. One of the first things that has to be done is to sit down with the team and agree the team operating values.

I used this technique with a newly established team just recently. It really helps to get the whole together in one room and chat about what they consider to be important in a team environment.

The flow chart below highlights the main areas of discussion when discussing team work: –

This exercise can be used along with the previous values/motivators discussion which will allow the team to think about why they are here and what they feel is important to them as individuals; setting the scene for this next discussion about team work.

Facilitating a discussion

If you have read my previous posts you will know that what I tend to do when facilitating group discussions is ask a lot of questions and use what the team come up with to steer the discussion, whilst ensuring the discussion is kept relevant and going in the correct direction. This technique will allow for open discussion. Just remember to listen and ask the team members to elaborate on points made; sometimes it is far too easy to spout out one word answers.

What you need

  1. Your team all in the same room
  2. A flip chart to capture everything
  3. Motivation and energy
  4. A positive attitude
  5. An open mind

1. Identify your team

Spend time discussing with the team who they consider to be their team members. It is important that the whole team agree and that you as the manager are happy with the result the team come up with.

As the facilitator you should already know what answer you are looking for. Think about the bigger picture; there will most likely be sub teams within larger teams. It will be interesting to see what the team come up with and will highlight how each person thinks.

2. Agreeing Team Values

Make use of one of my previous posts about getting to know your employees which will help you facilitate discussion about team values and motivators. The result will allow the team to think about why they are here and what they consider to be important about working in the team. This will allow the team to really underst and what their team is all about and why they do what they do. Again, it is vital that everyone agrees with what is discussed.

3. Operating from the bottom-up

By hosting a focus group like this you are allowing the bottom-up approach to take shape; allowing your employees to make decisions and influence the future of the organisation and how their team operates.

I feel that it is vital to open up the communication channels from the very start and show the team that their ideas are listened to and considered. The worst thing you can do is shut them down; you will find that a lot of good ideas will come from your team and you have to give them the platform to expresses themselves and try out new ideas, without the fear of getting into any sort of trouble.

4. One voice

A very important factor in teamwork is to ensure the team are all delivering the the service with the same message; they use the same language, they behave in the same ways.

Again, this forum setting will allow the team to start to form a message and agree on the values of the team.

5. Having a friend at work

Some may think this is not all that important but I have found that having at least one person you can confide in at work is very important. If anything, it allows those who are having a bad day to get things of their chest and know that the person they are confiding will not take it personally and not discuss it with anyone else.

It is important to highlight here that not everyone will have that one person. As a manager you have to pick up on this, it may be that you can be that person.

6. Have an overriding goal

A fairly obvious point; the team must have an objective, something to focus on – quite high level in this case.

Examples could be: –

  • “To deliver the best service”
  • “Get it right first time”
  • “Have no customer complaints”
  • “To be better than everyone else”

Typical Questions

  • If you were able to create a team, what values would you expect?
  • What makes a good team a good team?
  • How should a good team operate?

This is a great start for discussing team work with your team and is the start of many posts about team work.

Thanks for reading,

Chris

I’m sure that in your organisation you will have some sort of internal review process/performance review, although sometimes it is not enough to just have a meeting once per year or to just focus on the goals related to the role the employee plays within the organisation. This development tool focuses upon the individual with reference to their PERSONAL objectives, on an ongoing basis.

I have designed a development plan that can be used for all team members and I have made them available for download as .pdf documents ( Stage 1 – Self Assessment and Stage 2 – Agreed Objectives).

I personally really enjoy spending time with people and get them thinking about the future and what their aspirations may be. I want to support them in whatever it is they want to do and this tool helps me to do that in a structure way.

A planned development strategy will allow you to: –

  1. Spend structured, formal and regular time with individual team members.
  2. Constructively recognise employee strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Agree objectives and work on areas of development.
  4. Give them more exposure and room to develop.
  5. Monitor their performance and give them direct and constructive feedback.

There are many advantages for the employer and the employee: –

  1. A skilled, knowledgeable and engaged workforce
  2. The individuals know that you care about their personal development
  3. High team morale
  4. The team begin to really enjoy their job
  5. Everyone feels involved and that they are achieving something

Remember to use questions to get information and facilitate discussion.

Stage 1

( .pdf)

Using this form you can either choose to sit down with the employee and discuss or send them away with the form to complete the questions and get back to you…then discuss at a later date. The main idea here is to get them engaged in thinking about their career path and what development they require in order to get what they want. Question 7 “Do you have someone at work that you would consider your best friend” is really just about finding out if there is someone that the employee can fully trust, which I think is important in the workplace.

As far as development is concerned, the main areas to concentrate on are questions 2, 3 and 8. Question 8 is a good place to start you will be able to get a good picture of what the employee is working towards, which will than allow you to approach the areas of development required in order to meet their goal.

Stage 2

( .pdf)

The stage 2 form is then used to break down the goals into smaller chunks, perhaps even tasks that need to be completed in order to develop. You use one form for each objective and you may end up with 4 or 5 which may all be of different time scales.

Remember to make the objectives SMART and give the employee a clear deadline for things to be completed.

When you come to review progress you can use the section at the bottom of the form to take notes.

Building a Portfolio

After you start ‘ticking boxes’ and making progress you find that you start to build up a nice portfolio of achievement for the employees. This could possibly be used as a tool for promotion.

Adopting the correct leadership style

You have to be prepared for things to not go the way you planned. Also, there will be some who require little coaching and guidance to meet their personal objectives, and some who require much more attention. You won’t know until you start the process and find out who needs what attention from you and what style of leadership you will need to adopt.

Managing the process

As the manager it is up to you to check progress and organise the meetings; you are the key support in their development. You will find that if you do not keep on top of it things will not be achieved, although it very much depends on how engaged the employee is. Remember to follow up on any agreed actions; organise a training course, send someone an email or schedule another meeting, for example.

Take the time after each meeting to review your notes and jot down what you think is next and schedule the next meeting in your diary before you forget.

Thanks for reading,

Chris

Introduction

In my current job one of my current goals, as part of a wider programme, is to eradicate gossip.

I have seen the results of gossip, I’ve found myself managing conflict due to gossip and I have been a victim myself.

I am aware that this is not going to happen overnight and I am also aware that there will be many small steps that will help achieve this goal, the first steps of which I have highlighted below.

It would be naive to say that an organisation/department/team will run smoothly everyday without conflict; I am realistic and believe that conflict is inevitable and should be managed in order to keep your team progressive and innovative.

You cannot go through your daily routine avoiding the difficult conversations to avoid conflict, it is important to deal with the issues your team faces head on. As a team leader your team will have more respect for you and you will also learn from the experience; each time you deal with difficult situations it gets easier.

Do not let issues roll on for a long time, this encourages gossip, will ultimately demotivate and could ultimately make your team miserable…’nip it in the bud’.

Dealing with gossip

Before getting into the steps I took the very first thing I did was write to the whole team by the way of a memo.

The memo gave them a brief indication of what to expect when arriving to the forum.

This will align expectations; minimising any fears and getting people engaged in subject thought.

At this stage I also assigned the team a few small ‘thinking’ tasks to get everyone engaged.

My meetings only last for 30 minutes because this is the only window of time I have to minimise the impact upon our customers, but it is enough time to discuss a subject (another reason for the memo; it will get some pre-work done before the meeting).

As the team leader, one thing that is paramount in every team meeting is that you include yourself as part of the team.

Do not refer to your team as ‘them’ or ‘you’; use words like ‘us’ and ‘we’.

Get your team together in one room

Explain to your team why you have arranged this forum.

Dothey agree that there is an issue with gossip and that something needs to be done about it?

Tip – Use a lot of questions throughout, encourage answers and try not to give out any information, ask them for it. (How, What, Where, Why & When)

Define ‘gossip’ specific to your workplace

Facilitate an open forum to first of all define and describe what gossip actually is. See if team members can pull from personal experience or give some specific examples.

This will ensure that all team members agree on what gossip is and therefore be able to identify it in their daily routine.

All team members should underst and and be working from the same definition.

Tip – Have some definitions prepared in order to facilitate discussion.

Ask questions based around them, for example, quote a definition and ask the team if they agree with it or not,
and why.

A good analogy from a writer called Don Michael Ruiz from the book “The Four Agreements”(p37-42)

“Gossiping has become the main form of communication in human society. It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do.

Gossip can be compared to a computer virus; a computer virus is a piece of computer language written in the same language that all the other codes are written in, but with harmful intent.

After this code is introduced, your computer doesn’t work right, or it doesn’t function at all because the codes get mixed up with so many conflicting messages that it stops producing good results.”

Dictionary Definitions

  1. Rumour or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature
  2. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumours or facts

Team Agreement

  1. Make sure everyone agrees on the definition.
  2. Define your goals and aims from this discussion – what is it that you hope to achieve? Eradicate gossip?
  3. Identify those that think it cannot be achieved, find out what they are thinking and their reasoning and discuss this openly.

Tip – Look out for ‘nods’ and ‘shakes’ of heads. This will highlight acceptance…also folded arms or a defensive posture. Even if people aren’t saying much, if they are nodding their heads you can be confident that they are listening and agree with what is being said.

Agree on the techniques for stopping gossip

Discuss openly with the team, but have some of your own ideas in order to facilitate discussion. For example, if each individual has agreed to eradicate gossip, then each individual should be able to tell their colleague(s) that they do not want to engage in gossip and walk away from it. If everyone is doing this then the gossip culture will soon disappear.

Tip – One thing that you have to remember is that it all starts with the leader. You must be the example of ‘good behaviour’ and not be involved in gossip yourself.

Monitor progress

It is important to monitor the progress of the team and publically reward those who behave in the way that

has been agreed. Unfortunately not everyone will learn at the same pace and you will have to privately reprim and those who are not behaving in the way that has been agreed.
Remember that the team agreed to these boundaries or rules, so you do not have to appear like the ‘bad guy’.
In most cases you will be able to remind those who are not working towards the goals about the agreements made and be very specific about what it is about their current behaviour that goes against the agreement.

Again, it is important to pick up on these issues early on so team members do no think it is acceptable to behave like that.

You have to be aware that there is a fine line between idle ‘chit chat’, gossip and bullying and it is important to recognise when things are getting serious. That is why it is really important to challenge issues early on.

Small issues build up and eventually become one big issue, which can result in conflict, bullying and upset team members.

The focus should be on having a highly focussed and responsive team who all respect each other.

In order to have a fully functioning team the team members need to be able to express their opinion and discuss topics openly.

What’s next?

The next step is to figure out how the team members are going to work without gossip.

and have the ability to express their opinion without causing offence or taking things personally.

There is danger that the team may think that they are not able to talk without the risk of getting into trouble for ‘gossiping’ or personally attacking people.

Managing gossip is one step towards strong communication,  and it must be addressed, however there are several topics that the team must discuss. For example, not taking things personally, which will be covered in future posts.

I hope that you have found something interesting here that will help you with your own team development.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading,

Chris.