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How to Build a Strong Team
5 Tips: Bring people together and make it work.
Teams are everywhere.
Even if you work alone, you are likely to be part of a team. Reporting lines define teams. For example, a manager = a team. Such teams sometimes feel fake or empty. Just put people with similar roles together, and that’s it.
But some teams work together and collaborate. If you have a chance, join such a team. It is much more fulfilling than sitting together but working on separate projects.
If you wonder how to improve your team, here are 5 tips.
One thing that bugs me about teams is that they sound like an awesome idea but have zero vision or thought behind them.
Let’s merge all account teams.
A new cross-functional team will integrate these functions.
This team will work on strategic product activities.
Every team should start with a vision.
What is happening? What do we need?
Why do we need it? Who do we need to work together?
So what? How will we make it work?
Teams are often chaotic. This person does this, that person does that. A manager drowns in to-dos. When vision is missing, teams are useless.
Start with a simple definition: this team is here to do XYZ. Be specific, practical, and focused on max. three activities. For example: “This team integrates account knowledge from different clients, keeps ongoing communication with clients, and helps them maintain current products and/or develop new solutions.”
The purpose of the team is:
Communication with clients (assessing clients’ needs and responding to them)
Maintain products functional or sell new solutions
A shared vision (or purpose) connects team members. They define roles clearly. They collaborate and share what they learn.
Also, if there is a person who does not want to collaborate on common goals, you know they might not be the right fit for your team.
Do all problems and tensions come from poor communication? Possibly yes.
Look at the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.
Do a quick test and say yes/no:
Hide mistakes and go behind each other’s back.
Avoid conflict and act grumpy or passive instead.
Roll on your team unclear expectations and competing priorities.
Look for a victim without reflection.
Focus on results only and ignore the team’s efforts.
Even one ‘yes’ answer can cause tension and frustration. If only your team could be open and honest with each other. Yet, even in seemingly open culture organizations, people do not say things as they are.
Can you trust something? You can. On yourself. You should be open about what you need and match your words with your actions. People will like working with you if they can trust your ‘yes’ is ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ is ‘no’.
Saying things as they are will feel weird for your teammates at first. But encourage sharing opinions, taking decisions together, asking questions, and engaging people in discussions.
Squeeze their passiveness or non-openness into shared opinions.
3. Don’t search for a victim
Who has done it?
Whose mistake is it?
Why aren’t our numbers better?
Find someone you can place the responsibility on. “It wasn’t me. It was her!”
Yep, we all dislike being blamed for mistakes, poor results, or flops. Gosh, it’s annoying to admit we mess up sometimes. Yet, regardless of who did it, teams that point their fingers at others are toxic.
You should never feel it is them vs. you. Especially when you all work for one organization.
It comes back to vision and communication. Some leadership teams like to find a victim to blame. So, they can feel better that it was not their poor leadership, competing priorities, or unclear direction.
But blaming others will never relieve you. Problems will stay there. Strong teams take advantage of mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Not a big deal.
"If you get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time." - Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
4. Create allies to dominate office politics
Let me spoil it for you. If you want a strong team, you need to build relationships outside of your team. And! Encourage your teammates to do the same.
Office politics is a dirty business. You can’t avoid it. But you can learn to work with it.
You need to:
Be interested in what others are doing.
Do favors here and there.
Join conversations and initiatives.
Spread the word about what your team does.
Offer support, promote your team, speak kindly to others, and have open arms for anyone to talk to you.
Teams that work in silos are often black sheep. People are suspicious of what they do (if anything!). They gossip about them. They tend to avoid them or have bad impressions.
Nah. Your team needs to be seen, heard, and spoken about. By marketing your team, you will dominate office politics.
5. Have reasonable team expectations
Every team faces a performance paradox. They need results. If you do not deliver value, you are not considered a paid item.
How would you describe a successful and strong team?
Does a friendly team culture matter? Is overachieving your goals the only way to go? Can you call it a success when your team is not overworked but delivers the right numbers?
Both (business and culture) need to be in sync.
You can’t please everyone.
Strong and well-balanced teams understand one thing. There are times when they need to work together to deliver.
No questions about who is responsible or why it is needed. It is even fun to work together when they share the same vision and interests.
Set your expectations right. It means two things:
Be a human, not a Terminator
Motivate to push and motivate to relax
Have a vision of what you want to do as a team.
Watch out for communication hiccups and reasons for tensions.
Don’t blame others. Clean your doorsteps first.
Network inside and outside of your team.
Sync culture and business
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