This blog series looks at how you, as a manager transitioning into a new department or team, can use the opportunity of the transition to foster stronger teams.
The first post served as an introduction to why having stronger teams will help you be more effective as a manager. We promote the idea of real teams that are aligned with the business goals you are tackling.
Today’s post introduces the first three of a variety of activities with which your team might engage in the process of becoming a real team.
A number of these activities can fruitfully be combined with others. Many of the activities will benefit from professional facilitation, and you should engage a suitably experienced professional facilitator for this (contact us for information on how to find professional facilitators around the world).
A good starting point is to conduct a team assessment in order to develop an objective view of how the team is doing. By using an external consultant, they can work independently and offer an impartial assessment. A common approach is to interview all the team members to draw out information and perspectives that highlight what the team is doing well, where the team has found common ground in agreement, and areas to which the team needs to pay attention.
A further benefit of having a consultant conduct the team assessment is that they can return periodically (at six monthly or annual intervals) to conduct a “mini – assessment.” By interviewing a selected number of team members, or conducting some group interviews, the consultant can provide the team with an update on its progress since previous meetings. This serves as encouragement for the team, as the external perspective helps them track their progress, while also drawing their attention to areas that might require continuing work.
The Team Sponsor traditionally is someone outside the team, who mandates the team’s work and is willing to invest their authority, influence and resources to help the team be successful. So it is important that the team takes the time to align itself with the Sponsor’s expectations for the team.
Rather than attempting to do this through guess-work, you can invite the Sponsor to meet with the team, and to share their expectations first-hand. A professional facilitator can help members of the team raise questions to better understand how the team can align with these expectations. The meeting also helps the Sponsor gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the team’s business situation.
Among the ways of doing this are:
- Interview the Sponsor: write out a list of their expectations on a flipchart during the interview, so they concede that you heard them correctly. Then share this list with the team.
- Create a Poster of Sponsor Expectations: review the e-mails and other communications where the sponsor has communicated their expectations, and write these up in a poster that the team can review in its early meetings.
- Invite the Sponsor to a team meeting: invite the sponsor to come and provide some context and information about their expectations directly to the team. Write these down on a poster so the sponsor sees that you and others heard things correctly.
- Name your Team to Reflect your Purpose: if you have a compelling purpose, consider developing an appropriate name for the team. A name like the “Renewal Team” can help the team and others better understand its purpose then the “Management Team.”
- Purpose and Direction – why the team was formed, and what it aims to achieve
- Goals – the specific outcomes the team aims to accomplish.
- Norms and Agreements – the ‘how’ of team operations – how team members will interact, reach decisions, manage meetings and communications, etc.
- Measures – the indicators that will help the team know how well it is progressing towards it goals.
- Composition and Roles – the team members and specific roles they will play to help the team achieve its purpose.
- Organizational Context – any aspects of the context in which the team is located that should be understood by all team members.