Six steps to better teams

A great team is the dream of most of us, but reality for very few.  Most of us rub along with each other, some of us rub each other up, but few really ‘performing’ success in the way Tuckman describes.  There are some ways you can positively influence team growth, and our top six are described here:

1. Social:  Is it a co-incidence that teams are an anagram of ‘mates’?  I’m not sure I believe in co-incidence, but I do think it’s quite fitting.  Teams function best when they share common social connections.  Allowing a team time to get to know each other socially is just as important as getting to know what each person’s roles and responsibilities are.  That’s why we believe in blending fun social experiences in with our learning in team building training.  One of my favourite games really uncovers how well you know your colleagues!

2. Size:  Yes it seems it really can matter!  British team guru Dr Meredith Belbin thinks the ideal team is small, perhaps only four people.  There’s a raft of research that suggests the ideal team size is somewhere between 5 and 7 people.  It seems that whilst as you add more people to a team, the idea’s generated can grow, but there’s a limit on that – and 7 is the magic number.  I don’t claim to know what the perfect size is, but I do know that when a team is too large it makes it difficult to really get to know people and therefore function as a performing team.

3. Celebrations:  I love a good party (especially if there’s chocolate cake) – but I’m not suggesting you have a party at every minor ‘win’.  But the adage about success breading success is equally true in the realm of team dynamics.  In life and in teams we tend to get more of what we focus on.  So if you’re getting bogged down with all the things that aren’t working in your team, you’re likely to see more and more things go wrong.  Celebrating team successes puts everyone in a positive frame of mind and contributes to an ever increasing cycle – you only have to look at a football team on a winning (or losing for that matter) streak!

4. Acceptance:  Every individual in every team has strengths and weaknesses – yes even me (though don’t tell my husband I admitted that!).  Belbin has a great way of looking at it – he views our strengths and weaknesses as two sides of the same coin.  As such he says we must learn to accet the weaknesses of our colleagues (and ourselves) because they are often a symptom of the strength they bring to the team.  Whilst, sometimes we can take our weaknesses too far (Belbin calls these ‘non-allowable weaknesses’), on the whole if we can learn to accept the weaknesses of our colleagues and view the more positively – well harmony reigns.

5. Variety is the spice of ……. teams.  It’s human nature to find that the people we like most, are the people most like us.  The problem is if we fill a team of people who are just like us, well we get all the same strengths (and weaknesses).  For example, I’m a great idea’s person but I’m rubbish at working out if they’re good idea’s or not – as my business adviser will happily tell you!  In fact, that’s exactly why I work with him – because his strength is evaluating ideas and driving actual work.  I might have the most fun working with people with similar (if not slightly warped) imaginations – but in team terms, we’d never get anything done.  The reality is you need a mix of people and talents to make a first class teams.

6. Give and take:  Being in a team is a bit like being married, but to a whole group of people.  Anyone who’s been married for any length of time will tell you it takes work.  Sometimes, one of you is stressed out and struggling and needs to rely on the other, sometimes you need to know that your ‘bum doesn’t look big in this’ or you really have ‘still got it‘, and sometimes you need to be able to tell your other half that they’ve really upset you (but hopefully in a way that doesn’t end in divorce!).  Being in a team is no different – it’s about learning to give and take compliments as well as criticism, it’s about being prepared to stay late to help out a colleague (knowing that when you need it, they’ll do the same).  A great team is just like a great marriage – just without the wedding cake, presents and fabulous holiday!