Four research-based hacks for management teams
Thirty-six per cent of recent graduates have deficient team and interpersonal competencies.
Also, according to the article Team Development Interventions: Evidence-Based Approaches for Improving Teamwork, only 21 per cent of managers believe their organisations have the expertise to develop cross-functional teams, which a management team in my experience always is. So in this post I’m going to reflect on what the article has to say about four research-based approaches that can be implemented individually or in combination with each other.
Set goals that are challenging and specific. Setting goals has, in itself, an effect. But before you set goals you should have a broader discussion about the purpose of the team and exactly who are the team’s primary stakeholders. From my experience, an in-depth conversation is often needed before any team has finished contemplating these two seemingly obvious issues. In addition, a management team should create a vision that radiates energy. Readers who have worked with me in management team development have probably heard me refer to this as a great example of one such vision. When purpose and a vision are established it often becomes much easier to discuss goals.
Develop strong team relationships. You can encourage strong relationships by agreeing on and implementing norms. If we also introduce the team to system-centred thinking, we can help members become more role-driven through creating a better awareness of the purpose and goals of the team. Communication training helps members establish a climate characterised by exploration and a genuine sense of curiosity in one another. A possible hurdle in getting there is the following: In order for you to trust me, you need me to open up to you. But I will not open up to you unless I trust you. If you recognise this paradox in your management team, why not discuss it with your colleagues. Someone needs to summon up the courage and cut the Gordian knot.
Role clarification. I am thinking here about assignments I have had in organisations that were undergoing change. New roles were created which on paper made sense but which in practice were confusing. People became uncertain about their responsibilities and mandates, especially concerning their relationships to other departments within the organisation. What is expected of me in my new role? Who really owns so and so project? Who reports to whom? All too often I have seen what happens when these kinds of questions get stacked on top of each other. The result is nearly always frustration and despair. Competent managers and employees leave, and you are left contemplating the financial implications to the organisation.
Problem-solving. The intellectual capacity in management teams is hardly ever an issue. However, a phenomenon that I see a little too often is the tendency to jump into problem-solving before the problem is even clearly defined. Recently, I worked with a management team where I needed to provide a structure bordering to rigid since the team members were overly eager and continuously skipped the step where they asked themselves “What problem are we trying to solve?”
Ineffective methods. Once in a while, teams engage in fun activities as a means of team development, for example going bowling. This may be appreciated by the team, but as the article points out there is limited evidence this has any long-term positive effect on building stronger teams. Having fun is obviously not harmful for a team's development. The point is that if time and budget are limited it may instead be more cost effective to focus on one or more of the other areas mentioned above.
Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Salas, E. (2018). Team development interventions: Evidence-based approaches for improving teamwork. American Psychologist, 73(4), 517-531.
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