The Sunday Mail
ONE common feature of highly successful businesses is the realisation of their leaders or founders’ vision through incredible teams.
Big Business Ideas
Teamwork is the fuel that enables common people to achieve unusual results.
Organising teams and talent is one of the most crucial aspects of leadership.
As a leader, having a vision is very important. However, that is just the beginning.
Great ideas alone do not result in business success. The correct execution of ideas does.
The vision requires meticulous implementation and, undoubtedly, an exceptional team is the means to achieve outstanding outputs and outcomes.
As such, leaders have three fundamental responsibilities — they craft a vision, build alignment and champion execution.
The benefits of teamwork
Teamwork helps in bringing about substantial reductions in absenteeism, lower staff turnover, significant increases in profit and improved job satisfaction.
Teams succeed because they provide an environment where weaknesses can be balanced out and individual strengths multiplied.
Teams also safeguard against individual shortcomings, such as underperformance and personal agendas. Projects are more likely to stay on track when peers support one another and review each other’s and the team’s work.
Teams also create an environment that most people enjoy. The security of a group makes each individual feel less exposed and, in turn, more likely to take risks and be more creative. Ultimately, the individual will perform better.
Storming and norming
Effective teams take time to develop. It is rare that a group of people can come together and begin to perform immediately; most teams go through a series of stages before effectiveness is achieved.
Psychologists describe these stages as forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. During forming, the group comes together, and members get to know each other.
It then moves into a storming stage, where members challenge one another for coveted group roles. Group processes then begin to emerge through trial and error.
The middle stage — norming — marks a period of calm, where agreement is reached on roles, processes and group norms.
By the fourth stage, members have become familiar with each other, with their roles and with the processes involved. At this stage, team performance hits its most effective level.
Once their work is done, the group moves to adjourning, or disbanding.
Businesses are keen to see teams move quickly through the early stages, reaching “performing” as soon as possible.
This is why companies invest a lot in team-building activities. Here, teams face and solve artificial challenges, often in a different environment.
Many companies also use the architecture or design of their building to encourage team interaction. For example, at Liquid Home, the technology company with a footprint in many African countries, the workspace is designed for collaborative working.
The building design and layout encourage team members to meet and interact with one another, even when they are based in different departments within the firm.
Research has shown that team-building activities and collaborative work spaces help to improve teamwork.
The most effective teams are those where members trust each other, share a strong sense of group identity and have confidence in their effectiveness as a team.
Effective team building
First, team members must be chosen for their skills, not their personality.
The team then needs to get off to a good start. Setting the right tone is essential. The tone should not be too casual — teams perform better when challenged, so a sense of urgency needs to be imparted.
The team should agree on clear rules for group behaviour and norms, and meet often, both formally and informally.
If possible, the team should be allowed to enjoy some early success; a few easy wins in the early stages have been found to boost performance later.
Likewise, the group — and its individual members — need to be lavished with praise. New challenges provide consistent motivation since they help to keep the work fresh and engaging.
Individuals have different talents and attributes, and these need to be taken into account when putting together teams.
Researchers contend that there are nine distinct roles within a team that are essential to its success. They also argue that the key to a well-organised team is balance.
For example, Urbane Create Agency — a strategy, marketing and advertising organisation — found that teams without creative and unconventional thinkers struggle to come up with ideas.
If there are too many such individuals, idea generation starts to take precedence over action.
Similarly, if there is no shaper — a dynamic, driven person who pushes the group toward decisions — teams lack drive and direction. But in a team with too many shapers, arguments occur frequently and will lower morale.
Sir Alex Ferguson, a former manager of Manchester United, one of the world’s best-known soccer teams, is a master of building winning teams over and again, and his methods can be applied to the business environment.
His team was bonded by a strong sense of a shared mission — the desire to win.
Players were united on the field, because Ferguson demanded cohesiveness off the field.
An exceptional team culture ran through the veins of every player and every staff member.
Ferguson realised the value of positive group norms. He was, for example, one of the first managers to ban the consumption of alcohol.
Moreover, alongside a host of team-building activities — quizzes on the team bus, for example — he demanded ferocious loyalty.
Players could expect unfailing public support from Ferguson and the team.
Equally, players were expected to observe a code of media silence with regard to teammates. Anyone breaching this team ethic was quickly ousted.
Team management often involves dealing with large egos and highly talented people.
In addition, talent management can be a source of frustration for many executives, it can be difficult to find challenges that keep them sufficiently motivated, while, at the same time, aligned with organisational goals.
Overall, teams provide an environment where talent can thrive. By giving talented staff teams to manage, or — although risky — putting talent together in teams, it is possible to stretch even the most gifted worker. Teams provide a framework and value system to which all members, skilled or talented, must adhere.
Stephene Chikozho is the managing director of Urbane Create Agency — a strategy, marketing and advertising entity. He writes in his personal capacity. You can follow him on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) WhatsApp +263772409651 or email managing [email protected]