Is Your Team in Harmony?

The second term has started at the university and this time we are covering two very important modules: Project Finance & Marketing and Project Teams. In today’s post, I would like to share some of the great insights I got access to during the first session of Project Teams. Whether you are a Project Manager, any Department Manager, or in-fact whether your job is heavily dependant on interacting with people, this is information you can benefit from.

I will cover the main elements of Team Development theories. You might have heard one way or another of the famous Tuckman’s Team Development theory (1965). The theory discusses how teams evolve in four different stages in every project or environment they work in. Form, Norm, Storm and Perform are the foundations of the cycle teams go by. These stages are very important for you as a manager not just to be aware of but to understand what behaviours are presented by different team members. Understanding those behaviours will help you understand how to drive motivation and increase effectiveness.

We spend a lot of time at work, and that is why our work environment plays a very important role in our wellbeing. Having a fulfilling environment at work normally has a positive impact on the personal life. Now personal life of course impacts one’s work performance, but for this post I will only focus on the former.

Tuckman's Theory

A group of people find themselves in an organisation working together as a team, welcome to the forming stage. This stage has everyone polite and guarded. As a manager you should understand that people come from different backgrounds and has different mindsets. In today’s world, it is highly likely that you will have a team that is either diverse but colocated, or diverse and virtual. Different cultures come with different understandings, expectations and perception. As a manager, you should be mindful of this because it will be the reason the team will move into the storming phase.

Once the team starts getting on with the job, lots of factors starts to overtake the performance environment. Now it is not only the cultural differences, but also each and every team member’s own habits, experience and goals. Humans by nature tend to operate under the motto of “this is how I do things, this is how I’ve always done things, therefore my way is correct.” Now this is by no means a judgemental statement. This a very understandable behaviour and could be the driver of resisting change. At this stage, your team will naturally move into the storming stage. Conflict arises and emotions start to take control. If you accept that family members, couples and friends argue then why would you expect this in a work environment? Being a manager, you should be aware that this will happen and thus be prepared to mitigate and address the conflict.

If you think that this is a professional environment and that the team must just get on with the job, you, as the manager, are contributing to the loss of productivity in the team. I personally find that airing things out as they happen and being honest and factual about any situation helps resolve the conflict. Conflict is usually caused by mismatched expectations. Poor communication tops it up and makes the conflict even more acute. So as a manager, understanding each of your team members expectations and perceptions is a solid starting point.

One interesting theory was shared in class as presented by Boddy in 2002 on the cycle of Motivation: Behaviours which achieve Goals that satisfy the Needs which create the BehaviourĀ is a cycle that is important to understand why team members behave in certain manners.

Motivation Cycle

Remember, if your team are not performing well together, this will undoubtedly impact their performance as individuals. You are running a project or a department and have deadlines and business expectations to meet. If you are not aware of the forming and storming stages, Norming stage will be delayed.

Norming is the stage when your team starts to build confidence and move into a group environment and mindset rather than just their individuality. This stage is where the team becomes organised, starts building confidence, and establishes procedures that work to all of them as a team. Common grounds are established, understood and abided by. As a project manager you can expect to see more collaboration between the team. The communication stream will be flowing more smoothly. I believe it is fair to say that at this stage the team now understands what each one of them contributes to the bigger picture as well as what all of their work collectively means to the bigger picture.

Once the team becomes more comfortable with each other, the performing stage kicks off. This stage is all about their flexibility, their higher level of confidence, dependability and efficiencies. They are one cohesive group that is looking at the objective in the same direction and not in a competing conflicting approach.

As a manager you must understand that Tuckman’s cycle does not take place in a defined time frame nor does it happen once right after the team is formed. The cycle is iterative and if you are a manager of a department, this cycle could easily happen at every new project the team takes on – new of its kind.

Keep in mind the cycle of motivation, this is a great starting point to help you define and guide your team as individuals to achieve their utmost capabilities. Working with your team is a 2 way relationship: you need to benefit from their expertise as much as they should benefit from the learning and experience of the project. Once the relationship turns into one way flow, then the breakdown becomes difficult to mend. Putting effort into your team to drive better performance that will give you results will set great foundation for an effective team.

Effective Team

Do you have meetings with your team members on regular basis? Do you know what is their career goals and most importantly help them set those goals? If you do not know what their goals are, how can you help them perform at their best. Think about yourself for a moment: why do you do what you do at work? Do you gain some self fulfilment from your job? If you get that, then why you should you expect any less from your team.

I personally operate under the concept of “What’s in it for me?” This is an important benefit to focus on because it ensures that my goals are being met by the project’s goal. This is how the common grounds are established and it is now a win-win situation. And because this model has helped me a lot in my career growth, I try to apply it with my team. Meeting with the team on individual basis to understand their needs and goals and help them realise their own “what’s in it for me” value so as we drive the expected behaviour.

Do you manage teams? Are you part of virtual global teams? What is your experience and how do you create and drive a winning culture? Please comment and share your thoughts.

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