Strong teams made easy

Research by the Gallup Organisation, summarised in ‘12: The Elements of Great Managing', by Rodd Wagner and James Harter, has identified what it takes to build strong and productive teams. The research is based on 10 million interviews with employees and managers in a wide variety of workplaces.

The 12 factors identified are all associated with good morale, greater engagement, higher productivity, good working relationships both within and between teams, and greater customer satisfaction. Whether you are a Manager or a team member, consider which of the following you can act on to help build a stronger and more productive team.

  1. Communicate your expectations - Team Leaders need to be very clear about how each person's role fits in with other people's roles and how they are expected to deal with challenges that arise. Team members can also communicate to their manager what they need from that person to do feel supported in their work. You may even want to communicate with people from partnering organisations about specific outcomes you want to achieve, how they can work in well with your program, and deal with difficulties that arise.
  2. Provide the necessary information, materials and equipment to do the job right - How do you know if your team members have what they need to do their job well? You ask them and then do everything in your power to get them what they need.

  3. Match strengths to jobs - Each of your team members have specific strengths and interest areas. Team members are more fully engaged when doing work they are interested in, enjoy, and are good at. Good managers focus more of their energy on encouraging and developing employee strengths than correcting performance problems.

  4. Give meaningful recognition and praise - Here it is important to praise what an individual values and sees as their strengths. It is also important to give recognition that they find meaningful. One person may value private, genuine thanks, whereas another might prefer acknowledgement at a team meeting. Some value close working relationships and others feel affirmed when they are left alone to do their work. Ask the people you work with the best way you can encourage them in their work or notice which types of recognition are well-received.

  5. Care about the people you work with - Take a genuine interest in what they do in their free time and significant others in that person's life. Ask also about challenges they are having, their solutions for addressing them, and how you can help them to feel more satisfied with their work.

  6. Encourage mentoring - We all can benefit from someone who encourages our development, whether it be our manager, a co-worker, or someone from outside of our workplace. Encourage those who are great role models to take on mentoring roles for others. Exchange staff for a period of time with other teams. This is a great way to build greater understanding of other teams as well as ongoing, co-operative relationships.

  7. Value people's opinions - Encourage your team members, as well as those from other teams, to come up with solutions to problems that arise. This not only helps people to feel valued, it allows creative solutions to be developed, and increases their ownership in making that solution work. Make the time to ask people what they think and then act on as many of their ideas as possible.

  8. Speak about the sense of purpose in your work - We all need to appreciate what our workplace is endeavouring to achieve and feel that it is worthy of our efforts. We also need to appreciate what our part is in making it happen. Communicate the purpose of your team and celebrate success stories consistent with your mission. Speak to other teams about the common purpose you share. The level to which people are engaged with the purpose of their work is directly associated with the ability of the manager to communicate it with genuineness and to do it well.

  9. Address poor performance quickly - It can be incredibly frustrating when a team member or a partnering team is performing poorly and nothing is done about it. Although there is a time to ‘cut people slack', it is also important to address performance problems before they become major issues. If you have someone who is not performing well, first consider what is causing the problem. Is it that you have not clearly communicated your expectations or have not provided enough training or support? Can the person's strengths be better applied in another area or are they simply the wrong person for the job?

  10. Foster friendships at work - Friendships at work help drive team success through people knowing that others care about them, will help them out, and not attack them if they have made a mistake. You can encourage friendships by providing opportunities to socialise both during work time and outside of work, to connect around food, and perhaps to work as a team in a fundraising event or competition - perhaps a friendly competition with another team.

  11. Have regular two-way discussions - The research has found that formal performance appraisals are often de-motivating. What works better is giving regular feedback, especially on employee strengths and what they are doing well. Regularly ask team members how they are feeling about their work, what they would like to learn, and how they would like their career develop. Then support them in doing so if you can. Of course, these discussions need to be two-way, with the manager actively seeking feedback about how they can help that team member to feel more satisfied in their work and support them in their role.

  12. Provide opportunities to learn - If you are asking team members how they would like to develop, this will help you to provide opportunities for learning consistent with their strengths and interest areas. Giving people variety in their work will also help them to learn and feel more engaged. Consider offering temporary placements with other teams or organisations, job swaps with other team members, providing new challenges, & training new team members as ways to encourage learning and variety.      

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