Most teams I have coached are open to change and willing to learn, but not all and there are learnings in both. In my experience these are the top five most important things when setting out to build an effective team.
- The leader’s active role is critical. Some leaders want the development process to ‘fix’ things in the team as if they were an observer rather than the person accountable for the process itself. The good leaders focus on what’s happening in the team, behaving in a way that gives permission to others to experiment, showing vulnerability in situations that they feel uncomfortable with and seeking help where they need it. If you have watched ‘Ted Lasso’ you will know exactly what I mean.
- I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but speaking to the development process itself, it’s a bit of a journey. Things don’t go from challenging to brilliant in one go. The process of developing a team needs attention and nurturing just like anything else organic that grows over time so patience is required. What I’ve seen the very best leaders do is declare their vision about what sort of team will meet the challenges and opportunities in the future so that the team members can contribute to the change even when the tenure of some team members is at stake.
- Team members need to know why they are a team. This is not always as obvious as you might expect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked the question ‘what do you work on together as a team where you are all accountable?’ and the answer is ‘I can’t think of anything!!’ The leader needs to articulate the purpose of the team and the expectations of working together. Assuming team members will work this out is insufficient and lazy.
- The leader needs to deal with difficult or toxic members in the team because they disrupt the team coming together. If the leader does not engage these disruptors, then team development can easily move backwards. It takes bravery but I’ve seen incredible changes when someone is asked to change their behaviours in the team. Most people want to do the right thing and this may be the opportunity for them to articulate something that’s getting in the way for them.
- Building trust in a team makes the biggest difference to develop a healthy and effective team. Bit obvious? Well in my experience this is the asset that’s most missing because in organisations we lose the meaning of the word. In real life we use the expression of trust to describe people that you feel comfortable with. Those who are willing to listen and challenge you for a better outcome. Trust is a behaviour which creates safety for robust conversations, exploration and decision making. In organisations trust is often twisted to be an output, such as ‘I trust someone to deliver’. It becomes a ‘what’ rather than a ‘how’.
As a coach I encourage leaders and teams to think about these initial steps as part of the development process.