Leading effective teams

TIP 9 & TIP 10

Everything accomplished in a team is a function of communication: clarifying
direction, establishing guidelines, making decisions, and sharing information.
Therefore, communication skills become extremely important in a team
environment. While communication is a large area of expertise, it is especially
important that, as the team leader, you:
Be an example.
Provide feedback.
Stress advocacy and inquiry
Be an Example
As a team leader, you need to model
the basic behaviors of a good team
member, especially effective
communication skills. Your
communication skills may or may not
have been a factor in your selection as
a team leader, but in any case, you
must pay particular attention to how
you communicate in your role as the
team leader.
One aspect of this modeling is that you participate in the team the way
you expect other team members to participate. No team has an expert for
every type of activity essential to the team’s success, and everyone will
have to play multiple parts. Get involved in the nitty-gritty work of the
team, and beware of when you are doing only leader-like activities. Also,
look for opportunities to let your team members take the lead for certain
activities, trust each other, and to get organizational visibility for their
leadership.
Provide Feedback
As team leader, you have two reasons for learning how to effectively
communicate expectations and feedback:
To shape the behavior of team members to produce teamwork.
To show team members how to shape the behavior of each other
To effectively use feedback, a leader must make
the effort to watch for the kind of behavior he or
she wants and expects. In a task-oriented
business place, this is no small feat. To make the
task even more difficult, the most effective
feedback is the positive type that communicates
to people they are on track. “Catch them doing
something right” is a helpful way of describing
what you want to do
GIFTS are Good Feedback
The behavior you reward with positive feedback does not have to be perfect; it
only has to be in the direction of what you expect. One of the reasons babies are
so motivated to walk is that parents provide their warmest praise for the first
efforts in the right direction. You have to know what you are looking for, and
when you see it, you have to be quick and genuine with your feedback. Make
certain these GIFTS meet the following criteria
Genuine. When you say it, mean it.
Inclusive. Make sure that everyone who deserves credit gets it.
Fits the individual. For example, praising one person in public may be the highest
form of a compliment; another person may actually experience it as painful.
Timely. Do not wait for performance appraisal time.
Specific. Focus on a result or a behavior
Stress Advocacy and Inquiry
Expressing our opinion when it agrees with
the opinions of others is easy. And while
expressing a contrary opinion is more
difficult, it is the contrary opinion that holds
the greatest promise for generating creative
solutions. Two essential communication
skills that you want to demonstrate yourself
and to develop in team members are
advocacy and inquiry.
Consistently using these two skills will allow important information and
opinions to surface and assist the team in making positive and creative
use of conflict.
Developing Advocacy and Inquiry Skills
Advocacy
Advocacy is the skill of presenting our opinions or our perspectives. It is voicing
our ideas in a way that stimulates a discussion that explores, builds on, or even
challenges other opinions. Advocacy is the skill of saying what we truly think and
expressing it in such a way that it invites people to respond honestly and even to
disagree.
One way to demonstrate the skill of advocacy is to follow a statement of your
opinion with something like, “Now I’d like to know what you think about what I
just said. Do you agree or disagree, and why?” Another approach is to make it
clear that your opinion is tentative, or at least open to input. For example, “I’m
not completely sure about this, but…” or “My own thinking is that….”
Inquiry
Inquiry is the skill of responding constructively to other people’s opinions so that
they are encouraged to stay engaged in the conversation.
To constructively inquire about someone’s opinion, you must push to explore it.
“What do you mean? What leads you to say that? What do you think will happen
next? What if…?” The words you choose are irrelevant, but the message must be
that you are truly interested in other people’s ideas and opinions. Also, your
questions are intended to explore their ideas, rather than to discount them.
Even if your inquiry challenges the person’s opinion, you must make sure your
tone is not threatening, intimidating, or so final that it implies you are right and
he or she is wrong. How will you know if you are practicing true inquiry? The
answer is that people will continue to advocate without becoming defensive
TIP 10: Support the Team
Leading a team requires the willingness and ability to work not just within
the team, but also on the team’s environment. In addition to developing
the team to do the job, you are also responsible for ensuring that the team
can operate within its organizational context. In fact, a primary focus of
the team leader is the boundary between the team and its surroundings,
including its customers, its suppliers, and the larger organization of which
it is a part. You might say that you, the team leader, should provide or do
for the team that which the team cannot provide or do for itself.
To be effective, a team needs a leader who will:
Remove obstacles.
Defend the team against undue criticism.
Celebrate successes
Remove Obstacles
One of your roles that needs to be repeatedly
addressed is that of a barrier buster.
Whatever problems and difficulties develop,
any issue that threatens to derail the team or
deplete its energies becomes the concern of
the team leader. These issues may arise
outside or inside the team
Working together as a team is essential to removing obstacles. Yes, you
can probably move a boulder that is in your path. It will take you longer
and you will probably just end up pushing it along. But if you enlist the
help of others, the task becomes easier and they might have better ideas
to work toward the solution
Working Together as a Team to Remove Obstacles
Much of the fun and excitement in teamwork come from the team testing
its collective skill and wits against whatever arises. However, you have
the responsibility of determining when your team is in danger of “running
aground” when dealing with an unexpected problem. A significant portion
of your artfulness as team leader is related to knowing when to intervene
and when to let your team learn and grow by wrestling with an issue. The
key to making that decision is sensing not just when the team is
struggling, but when it is tiring from the struggle or when it is diverting
too much of its energy from the central task.
In some instances, you may directly involve yourself. (For example, when part of
the larger organization refuses to provide a product, service, or information
needed by your team.) If the issue is above your pay grade, you may have to
involve your Sponsor. Other times, you can negotiate more resources to enable
the team to work around or through an issue
Defend the Team Against Undue Criticism
As your team’s leader, you also play the role of its
champion and advocate. When you become aware of
other people (or teams) voicing or passing on criticism
of your team, give strong consideration to taking
action to stop or even correct that activity. Sometimes
the best way to stop criticism is to ignore it. However,
you can boost your team’s confidence and self-esteem
if you take the time and effort to confront the
criticism
The flip side is that you also need to listen carefully to criticism of your
team. Often, such criticism can help you identify a flaw or failure that can
have far greater consequences to the project or the team.
Celebrate Accomplishments
A wise person once said, “When you’re using
both hands to hold up the piano, it’s tough to
play beautiful music at the same time.” In the
same way, when you and your team are focused
tightly on all the tasks you still have to do, you
can lose sight of what you have already
accomplished. Continuing this way for a long
duration can lead the team to burn out
Just as it is your job to have the team answer the right questions, it is
also your job to make sure the team recognizes its accomplishments and
takes credit for its successes. As team leader, make certain the team sees
its task in the right perspective.
Recognizing Team Accomplishments
Periodically—and regularly—set aside time in team meetings to list the
accomplishments of the team within a given time period. Teams must be
very focused on details and what is yet to be done in order to keep their
momentum going. You, as the team leader, need to help them look back
at how far they have come and how much has been done.
In addition, find “excuses” to celebrate wins and successes. Some may be small,
others more significant, but DON’T WAIT until you get final results to call
attention to the team’s accomplishments. Plan activities to recognize when you
have met major milestones. If you get particularly positive feedback from a
customer, bring your team together to bask in the “glory.” Continually look for
ways to reinforce and accentuate the positive.
Recognizing Team Accomplishments
Periodically—and regularly—set aside time in team meetings to list the
accomplishments of the team within a given time period. Teams must be very
focused on details and what is yet to be done in order to keep their momentum
going. You, as the team leader, need to help them look back at how far they
have come and how much has been done.
In addition, find “excuses” to celebrate wins and successes. Some may be small,
others more significant, but DON’T WAIT until you get final results to call
attention to the team’s accomplishments. Plan activities to recognize when you
have met major milestones. If you get particularly positive feedback from a
customer, bring your team together to bask in the “glory.” Continually look for
ways to reinforce and accentuate the positive
S U M M A R Y
Session 3: BUILD Teamwork
Ultimately, the success of your team is determined by how well it obtains
the desired results. However, getting results at all costs—particularly
human ones—is not going to build a tradition and culture of effective
teams in your organization. Make certain that you develop your team to
be a well-oiled machine. You can do this if you:
Tip #8: Maintain relationships.
Tip #9: Develop communication skills.
Tip #10: Support the team
Pitfalls
Here are some common pitfalls that you may encounter when leading a
team
• Assuming that everyone on the team understands and is committed to
the team’s purpose.
• Believing that you can merely put intelligent and competent people
together in a room and they will know what to do.
• Imposing your own ideas on the team, instead of allowing them to
generate alternatives and develop solutions as a group.
• Stepping in too soon to solve team problems.
• Thinking that your team does not really need your leadership




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