Friday, 30 May 2014

How are your teams doing?

Good team management is now recognised as a skillset that is in demand far more than it used to be. It’s recognised for increasing productivity, morale, entrepreneurship (through the cross-fertilisation of ideas), and retention of employees among other positive contributions to the business. IMedia team leaders used to just happen almost as accidents for people who had been around for a while and through the project mill. The idea that leading a team needed nurturing as a skillset was, quite frankly, not even recognised. All eyes were on getting the project finished on time and within budget; at any emotional cost. Please don’t say, ‘has that really changed?’, or that means that your business hasn’t bought into this ethos.

I admit that we have, and still do, place the emphasis on completing the job. As team leader/project manager you are not there to be liked but to get the job done. We have tried to place the balance on managing through natural difficulties arising with the cross-functional team without conflict, but we have always said that, in the end, you have to be prepared to sacrifice a bad player in your team for the sake of the others and your project. The key phrase is ‘in the end’ as we have always tried to help you manage through any team difficulties positively. (See chapter 13 in our book).

It is better to be liked, of course, but in some circumstances you have to take decisions that won’t fit well with some of the team. They may well be able to respect you for these decisions, which is a good thing. Being ‘liked’ can be interpreted in many ways, with ‘respect’ included.

So, with the background out of the way, what’s new on the team front? Well, the terms cross-functional, inter-cultural, cross-cultural, remote, virtual and high-performing now seem to be the norm when we used to have to define the terms to make sure they made sense. That’s real progress. There are now far more training courses on team management across a plethora of sub-skill development. That’s progress too. The recognition that high-performing teams exhibit behaviours that have not been accepted traditionally in teams is also refreshing progress.

Eddie Kilkelly in the HR Review blog, Building and nurturing high performing teams (29th May 2014), gives an honest account of what it is like as a team leader with a high-performing team. There are real ups and downs through the team-melding process that are seen as necessary stages for forming the levels of trust and empowerment of the individuals within the team‘s own culture. Hurray for Eddie stating that the introduction of new people into the team can be a set-back for the maturity of performance in the team. iMedia teams generally have to respond to many sub-contractors, brought in for their availability and specialist skills, coming and going over the course of a project. This makes it harder for the team to meld in a high-performing way and this has not really been fully recognised for iMedia teams yet. You should also note that Eddie warns of the over-complacency effect of high-performing teams that stay together too. He advocates trust and oversight as the key factors for a team leader based on three pieces of research. Here, oversight means that the team recognise their behaviour and performance are being fairly monitored. Without this, the team is not as motivated in terms of performance. Well worth a read, do follow the link.

As usual then, let’s get back to you and your position. Where do you fit in the team structure of your business? How well is today’s complex team management understood and given credit in your company? What team management training is embraced in your company?

Now, I know training is a luxury in SMEs and there are plenty of those in iMedia. So, don’t switch off just because there’s no money available for even more fundamental training for your company. You can be an agent of change using the little knowledge gained from reading this. Spread the awareness: that’s a big start. Put team management as a topic for discussion in any formal or informal get-togethers in the company. You can’t say ‘no’ to that surely?