I have just been promoted in my company and am now running a unit that has become known for a history of problems working as a team and with other divisions. There are a number of bright, creative but strong-willed employees. My bosses have told me it is a priority to get this division working more effectively together. Where do I begin? How do I get this group on track?
This is always a challenge to take on a strong willed but talented group which has not coalesced as a team and does not work or play well with other divisions in the company. As the new manager you are often left asking why this was not addressed before. This is likely why you are the new leader of the group.
The first thing to do is to gather the information from your boss, other members of the executive and other divisions about their observations and perceptions of your group. You will want to find out about their strengths, their talents, their accomplishments, the traits that make them stand out as a group. You will then want to find out what are the challenges for this group. Find out what mistakes that they have made and what impressions and impacts they have made on others in the company.
You will want to meet with the members of your unit both individually and then as a group to find out their perceptions of their strengths, gifts, talents and accomplishments as well as their perceptions of their challenges, weaknesses, gaps, and mistakes. You will want to find out what they feel may be getting in their way of working together as well as what impact the unit is making with other divisions in the company.
You can also use team and cultural survey tools to gather this information on a more systematic basis from group members and others in the company. These assessment tools will give you an objective view on the interpersonal, communication, and productivity dimensions of the unit. You will want to engage a professional coaching and/or organizational development consulting company to administer the survey and provide feedback to your group.
Next a team building retreat with your unit should be set up and all members of the group will be required to attend. Ideally, this will be offsite or, if funding is too tight, then in a physical location in the company away from the divisions regular worksite. Group members should not be able to return to the worksite or access their computers or PDA’s (except in the case of a true emergency) during the retreat. The focus of the retreat will be about team awareness and team building. You will want to engage a coach or consultant to facilitate the retreat. Strongly consider using a consultant/coach who administered the survey or assessment tool.
During the retreat the facilitator (and you) can then work with the group to help them understand what a team is – e.g. people who work together to produce results for a company which cannot be accomplished as well by an individual or work group. He/she can help them understand what the attributes of a well functioning team are. The facilitator can assist the group in understanding what gets in the way of people working collaboratively together as a team.
He/she will reveal the results of the interviews and survey systematically so that the group will gain an understanding of where they have worked well as a team and where they have been getting in each others way. Through a series of group exercises and discussions, the facilitator will help the team increase its awareness; learn how to deal with team resistance, conflict and problems; and learn ways to start to build a more positive, collaborative team.
You will want to come away from the retreat with an action plan on how your unit will meet regularly with you and the facilitator, if needed, and work together to continue to build on the following keys to a successful team as outlined by team experts and authors, Katzenbach and Smith : a common purpose or mission; shared commitments to the team and the team members; common behavioural guidelines and practices of how the team will work together; clear role statements for each team member; and common performance goals and outcome measures which will be reviewed regularly. This will set the foundation and pathways to building your unit into a strong, successful and collaborative team.
Bruce Sandy of www.brucesandy.com is a certified coach, consultant and facilitator based in Vancouver, B.C.