Have you ever assembled a group of talented people who just don’t gel together? Did you ask yourself “Is this a reflection of my leadership, or my personality? “What can I do to fix the problem,
or can I?”.
If these questions resonate with you, check in this article how Darren Robinson answers them
Having managed teams for close to 30 years it has been paramount in forging success in different settings in high intensity environments. I was charged to deliver and lead an 8-man team on a highly sensitive task for 6 months, living in close proximity, which was monitored at governmental level. I knew some hard work lay ahead, strong personalities with different skillsets would need careful managing!
After some strong advice from my CEO and even stronger advice from my direct Line manager, the gravity started to sink in fast of the reputational damage this would cause the organisation if the Team did not deliver.
Our first team meeting was a disaster, members were late and others looked tired and disengaged. I had a couple of weeks before the training would start in earnest and before our deployment. This training would be testing and unconventional in nature, a steep learning curve for us all. I gave an outline of the task ahead and decided to focus on the equipment needed and to set a time and date for the next meeting.
The second meeting proved more productive including equipment issue and an informal chat about what each member would be bringing as a competency/skill. They each shared their in-depth knowledge and were subject matter experts in their own rights. We definitely had the quality, skills and experience needed they just needed to work as one team!
To bring them together I needed to fully understand how to install team belonging into each member. I have now formulated a checklist as a guide:
Recognise and Reward Team Members for past achievements or accomplishments
“REWARDS for good service should not be DEFERRED a single day” – SUN TSU
Make Team Belonging a part of good routine. By frequently acknowledging accomplishments and experience it can bolster not just the individual’s confidence but the confidence of the team in that individual. Who doesn’t like to be praised amongst their peers? “Good work last week, great attention to detail and exactly what was needed, thank you”, as an example. This type of acknowledgment resonates within any organisation.
This is exactly why I chose to ask each member what they would bring to the team and the task. Acknowledging the fact that they were indeed valuable assets and irreplaceable, with certain responsibilities – therefore ownership of the task ahead. To be honest I didn’t have a handle on the various skills and would be out of my depth to try and replicate them, or indeed explain them, so I had to find a way to get the information needed, at least I could brief organisations of our collective competencies. I asked probing questions with a keen interest to Team members and let them take the floor to explain their role, making them feel comfortable and empowered as they are the subject experts- Let the information flow!
Shared Vision – All as one!
Focusing the Team and aligning them to the vision and goals of the organisation is a must. Our main goal was broken down in to smaller achievable Team goals and aligned to the skills and experience, who would do what and why. Personally, I talked about our legacy and how we could have a strategic affect. Of course, I didn’t have all the answers, so after the initial conversation allowed debate on how this would be achieved. This was valuable to get buy-in and ensure all our energies were forging together but also to allow free-thinking especially at the tactical detailed level.
The Team were now starting to connect with a common purpose and shared vision – Let the training commence!
Step back – and take a knee!
To step back and take a knee gives you as the Leader the ability to see the bigger picture. Once the training course had begun, I had to choose what was more important to the team! I believe in Leading by example, and need to be best at everything for credibility, or do I? I wanted to be a part of the team myself, I guess it was my sense of Team Belonging! But being on the course with the team was I best placed to understand the needs of the Team and bring them together?
The early mornings and late finishes were part of the training schedule but didn’t someone once say, there are 24 hours in a day!
Firstly, I had to recognise my part in the Team and to manage confliction of interests and time. I attended all the training serials and would spend coffee breaks, hurriedly taking lots of notes and logging performances with the intent of sending descriptive feedback to my Line manager. At times I had to forgo some exhilarating training to organise important administration for the betterment of the Team. I knew there would be times in the future that I would have to let the Team conduct business and I would be left holding the fort! Using expert advice from the training coaches a detailed analysis of our team’s strengths and weaknesses were quickly formed. Also, these coffee breaks were an ideal time to have an informal chat about the training and what their specific needs or concerns were in order to fulfil their roles.
Training complete, rounds complete as the saying goes. On returning to our home base a catalogue of medical notes, vaccinations, kit issue and paperwork usually needs to be done. In-between various training most of this was carried out and the mandatory 2-week holiday before deployment was extended to nearly 4 weeks, much to the delight and morale of the Team. The remaining time before departing for a well-earned holiday was used to give a 1:1 feedback, also Team feedback on the training. I believed it would focus the Team as we collectively sought to reduce weaknesses, including my own!
‘Time, not money is the 21st century’s most precious commodity’ (The Guardian, 7 Oct, 2015)
After all this, I organised a social event for us to attend!!!
Know your people in different settings- what drives them!
If we want our people to bond as part of a team and go beyond normal working practices, we must set the conditions. An organised day out or social event in a relaxed environment helps socially bond the Team, breaking down barriers and It provides a basis of inclusivity, all on a level playing field. What professional or personal goals do Team members have? Do you have a 5- year plan, if so what? What do you do outside of work? On our social event I found some interesting and fun things about the team, how diverse they were, what they believed in and what goals they aspired to. It helped me understand how to best lead and manage each one. Also, it allowed the team to see me, casually dressed and away from and talking less about work!
Navigation (Direction change?) – keep steering the ship!
Do you know where you’re going? Is it still in-line with the overall vision of the leadership? Do you have input from others? Sometimes goals will change and maybe even the vision. How will this affect the harmony of the Team? By constantly evaluating the Team whilst monitoring the overall vision it allows a flexible approach, allowing fluid changes more readily. It will help negate large change for both Team and Individual needs. Always plan for a bumpy ride and things will seem smoother. To protect the integrity of the Team, a certain level of expectation management needs to be incorporated. It’s unlikely that each day will be rewarding or inspiring; these are the days when the Team will be tested most, and when you may face your biggest challenges.
A fine balancing act is needed when Team bonding as things change rapidly. Reward sincerely, share the vision early, step back and take a knee, know your people and navigate to guide the Team, so they are always at the core of your interests. These guidelines for Team Bonding were very successful. How did I know? Because I was needed to run an operations room, inside an old fort, so I had to hold the fort (quite literally), and the Team were outstanding in my absence. What a journey for us all as a Team, me included having learned valuable lessons about Team bonding that would last a life time.