Having teams work well together is critical for the success of projects, and the organization overall. That statement probably has you thinking, well duh. Yet if teams were working well together and having success there wouldn’t be a continued interest in this topic. I’ve written articles about building teams by improving communication (yours and theirs) and handling unruly team members and building trust with teams. All important topics and today I want to focus on another set of skills that you as the manager will need to develop so that your teams function at a high level.
Skill #1: Pattern recognition.
Patterns, when we can recognize them help us understand situations that we wouldn’t otherwise. For example. If a problem keeps coming up does it come up in other parts of the organization, or just this team? Does it surface under specific conditions such as a highly visible and critical project or when the team is under a lot of stress due to short deadlines and limited resources? This also applies to helping team members connect the dots. By this I mean connect the dots by providing information to them on what’s happening in other parts of the company so they can see the bigger picture, and connect the dots as in how whatever project they are working on will benefit the company. It’s easy to get mired down in the details of what we are doing and not understand WHY we are doing this.
Skill #2: Care more about the team than themselves.
This is challenging for sure. By nature, people think about themselves first and getting their own needs met. Yet if you look at any sports team, one player that is more interested in themselves than the well being of the team disrupts the team. Team members need to be taught that the team’s success is important, and the needs of the team have to supercede the needs of any individual member at times. Along with this, they have to believe that when the team is successful they too will be successful. Using the sports analogy. If an individual player on a football team wants to be out in front and be the star, often at the expense of the team, the team may not only lose the game, they may lose the opportunity to compete in the Super Bowl. As a leader, you need to help them recognize that sometimes what’s good for the team may not be perfect for them, and that the team’s success is their success.
Skill #3: Teach them to solve their own problems.
It’s natural as a leader to want to rush into fix problems, offer advise and minimize what is perceived as disruption to the team as they work through the challenges. Yet the most solid teams learn to solve their own problems and work through challenges. They may need a referee at times, or someone to step in and redirect that conversation in a more positive way but that’s not about solving the problem for them. Teach them what skills they need for problem-solving.
Skill #4: Acknowledge and accept culture, gender and age diversity is key.
Today’s teams are made up of people from all over the world, different age groups and genders. Helping teams learn to accept the differences in others whether its race, age, gender or culture is key to having a successful team. The diversity in teams isn’t going to go away so it’s critical that team members acknowledge the diversity and learn to work successfully with others who are different than them.
Skill #5: Be a leader.
Several years ago I hired a trainer for my dog who came from a shelter. I couldn’t manage walking her on a leash as every squirrel, rabbit, human, other dogs who went by triggered her and she was off. She’s 75 pounds of solid muscle and if I couldn’t control her through commands it was clear that one day she would injure me pulling me to catch whatever it was she wanted. Almost immediately with the trainer, she behaved for him. Sure he had to work with her a bit but within an hour she was walking, not pulling, and listening to him. So I asked him why she listened to him and responded to him and not me. His response: “because she knows I am the leader and knows you aren’t”. That moment taught me a lot. It taught me that dogs like people know who the leader is, and who isn’t. When you step into the room with your team remember to show up as the leader.