Teams are under pressure to perform quickly in today’s climate. The team’s first 90 days are carefully watched, which puts team members and the team’s leader under increased and mounting pressure. This is maginfied when the team in question has a high public profile, such as the new cabinet recently put in place by Malcolm Turnbull.
Teams exist for one reason and one reason only, to get results and the team that leads a country is under intense scrutiny to get results quickly. The pressure of this and the desire to show some quick wins can often result in poor decisions being made and executed.
Some tips for new teams who are forming.
Make working on the team a priority: in the same a way a business owner needs to step away from running the business to working on the business, a team needs to make time to step away from the detail of working in the team to working on the team.
Set firm team agreements/agreed ways of operating together. How will the team handle conflict? What’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in this team in terms of behaviour and ways of operating? What strengths will make this team soar? Where are the gaps?.
Focus on both productivity and engagement: A lot of team interventions /programs focus on engagement, having team members get to know each other. This is a critical part of forming a team, and it’s only half of the story. A focus on the key productivity factors is the other half. A focus on both is what will catapult a team to sustainable high performance.
Redefine leadership: Everyone in the team is a leader, all with a seat at the table because they have earnt the right to be there. The team needs all team members to step fully into their expertise and leadership and bring their voice to the leadership table.
Commit to showing up as an adult: Teams consist of human beings, there are times when we are at out best and times when we are less so. A new team can often feel like they are in a goldfish bowl with sharks circling them. In this environment tensions can mount and less desireable behaviours can show up. Be conscious of remaining in adult mode. This will go a long way to helping to ease and manage tensions when they arise.
Connect with the human being before focusing on the task: When under pressure it often feels more efficient to dive straight into the task or issue. This approach bypasses the importance of connecting with the human being in front of you. Teams that work well under pressure and get consistent results take time to connect to the person first, the issue second. This doesn’t have to be a long or onerous process, it can be as simple as asking how the are, or are they OK. The return of this small investment will pay dividends.
MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory conducted a study to document the behaviour of teams that “click” and get high results. They found that ‘patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success’. Based on the study a solution was presented to a bank’s call centre to change the way break times were scheduled allowing team members to spend more time socialising away from their work stations. This led to a rise in both team member’s satisfaction and productivity.
For people watching a new team form in their organisation invest in their success, ask how you can support them. Their success is your success and contributes to the result that you and the organisation that you are all working for.
Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian-based coaching and training company.