Promoting Teamwork

As mentioned earlier the objectives in the annual performance agreements for leaders can include leading those priorities important to the organization. To reinforce its importance building effective teams can be included as one of the objectives in leadership performance agreements. Sub-objections could include:

  • Establishes a common cause and shared mind-set
  • Follows the basic tenets of inspiring team members as outlined in such books as People Skills by Robert Bolton.
  • Creates a climate of innovation and experimentation
  • Communicates with team members and working on understanding their perspective
  • Runs interference for the team by removing obstacles, finding resources
  • Shares successes and motivates the whole team
There are many different resources which can assist in developing Team Cohesion workshops including:

  1. The Wisdom of Team by Katzenback and Smith
  2. Crucial conversations by Patterson et al.
  3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Lencioni
  4. Training in Interpersonal Skills by Robbins and Hunsaker
  5. Influence; The Science of Persuasion by Cialdini
  6. Inspiring Leadership – Staying Afloat in Turbulent Times by Andrea Bacon & Rosie Mackie
  7. Who really matters: Power, Privilege& Success by Art Kleiner
A team charter is a set of team agreements about how they want to get the work done. The team is brought together for a half day event to come to an agreement on topics such as:

  • Its mission and values;
  • Service standards;
  • Roles and responsibilities;
  • Protocols – meetings, decision making, dispute resolution, attendance, management of leave, sharing of information etc.;
  • Civility – how we want to interact with each other, codes of conduct; and
  • Team skills inventory & team improvement goals.

During the session, the team discusses these issues and drafts the Charter capturing the team agreements. From there the Charter is signed by the team members and referred to regularly at all team sessions or meetings throughout the year. Teams use the Charter to discuss issues where the team is off track and to identify ways to be better aligned in their actions with the team agreements.

When there are disagreements on teams, those involved often spend their time and energy trying to convince themselves and others that their version of the situation is the right one and some aspect of the other person is flawed because they are taking on an unreasonable position. When they do this the other person becomes “the problem”. The harder each of the people involved clings to their own views, the more entrenched the disagreement becomes and often the more team members become enrolled in one story or the other.

The book, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson sets out a useful model and set of tools for helping team members talk to each other when stakes are high, there are disagreements and emotions involved. The model assists team members in expanding what the author calls the pool of shared meanings from which working together a solution can be found to the difficulty.

The model includes five steps:

  1. Each team member shares their facts and their story about the issue under discussion.
  2. As they do so they ask each other questions in order to more fully understand one another’s point of view.
  3. They paraphrase to acknowledge each other’s story and confirm the feelings the other person is expressing.
  4. They stay open to what they are learning from the other person recognizing that the other person is bringing forward information they didn’t have previously when they were only aware of their own story.
  5. Once they each feel that they have a mutual understanding of the issue, they brainstorm together as to what they would like to do as a result of this conversation.
Meetings can be unpopular because they take up time--usually that of many people. However, there are good meetings and there are bad meetings. Meetings can be an excellent use of time when they are well-run. Unfortunately, the converse is also true, and it seems that time-wasting, poorly run meetings are far too common. Some of basics for enhancing staff meetings:

  • Meet regularly
  • Have an agenda and distribute it before the meeting
  • Have a moderator or chair for the meeting who tracks time, ensures the agenda items are covered, ensures the group sticks to the schedule and stays on topic, and that the meeting starts and ends on time
  • Rotate the person who plays the moderator role among the team members
  • Ensure that all attendees have an opportunity to share; call on those who may be quieter and manage those who are more vocal
  • Remind all attendees to practice listening first to understand and then to be understood
  • Use a flip chart titled Parking Lotto keep track of important issues which arise which need to be discussed but not at this meeting
  • Wrap up summarizing agreements, decisions and next steps.
  • Assign an attendee to prepare a record of decisions and begin the next meeting following up on these.
A tiger team is a temporary team made up of a diverse group of employees (different levels and various expertise) brought together for a single project. They are usually assigned to explore and recommend possible solutions to unique situations or problems. Their strengths are the diversity of knowledge, a single focus or purpose and cross-functional communication. Once their task is completed they cease to be a team and usually go back to their previous assignments.

The metaphor of a tiger comes from the power and agility of the teams. There are no limits to their size, reasons, or purpose. They may be assigned to solve a recurring problem or create a new service or approach. The scope of their work may be very large or very small. They may be a team for a few days, or for many months.

A Stand-up meeting is a regular, standing-up, 15-minute team session. The purpose of the Stand-up meeting is to make sure that everyone on the team is in the loop, aware of all the important things that are going in their workplace and within their team.

The Stand-up requires a daily meeting, usually first thing in the morning, in which each team member gives a brief update of what they are doing that day. There is no chairperson and no agenda. The team meets in a central location where everyone has room to stand. Team members keep their updates simple, focused and just share what is coming up for them that is important and likely to be of interest to others in the team.

The Stand-up promotes increased workplace cohesion and encourages informal information sharing within the team.

Conducting engagement surveys is a useful way of gathering insights into what is important to employees. There are four key reasons why a leader might be interested in administering an employee engagement survey.

  1. Measure Employee Engagement: The primary reason for issuing engagement surveys is to measure the engagement level of employees. Measuring the key drivers of engagement within the organization allows a leader to assess whether their employees are engaged or disengaged. Some commonly assessed factors are advancement, recognition, pay & benefits, job role, training & development opportunities, leadership, work environment, etc.
  2. Give Employees a Voice: Engagement surveys are crucial because they give employees a venue for open feedback. It is an opportunity to establish two-way communication and involve employees in the development process by giving them a direct voice to the management team. Being actively involved in the planning process makes employees realize that their opinions are valued.
  3. Increase Employee Engagement: Once a leader has assessed how engaged employees are he/she can then create an action plan to increase engagement.
  4. Direct Organizational Growth: Assessing engagement allows leaders to identify areas of best practice within their organization. A specific area might rate very high on engagement and by analysing the data a leader can gain insight into how they are achieving it and implement best practices throughout the organisation.

Many companies provide excellent engagement assessment instruments which you can locate through Google. Psychometrics Canada, for example, has a number of useful products in this area.

Caribbean Leadership Project
Cave Hill School of Business
University of the West Indies
Cave Hill Campus
P.O. Box 64, Bridgetown, BB11000, Barbados
+1 246 417 3152