In my opinion, this can be split into three main categories or phases:
- Collective team building
- Objective team building
- Project team building
Collective team building
The need to have individuals and groups of people understand and work to the same overall goal or vision. Collective team building requires acute awareness and understanding of the difference between leadership and management; necessitating a deft touch in negotiating the pathway between both.
Objective team building
Distilling broad business goals into specific objectives; they can be operational, financial, safety or any other discipline that covers the managing of the business. This is where a solid, competent manager needs to perform one of the most important aspects of their role and where an understanding of “how to manage your boss” is crucial.
Project team building
Specialist teams created to solve specific problems or identify business improvements. Here a manager, in many cases, has the opportunity to select the team members most suited to the project and tasks.
Phase 1 – Collective team building
This phase of team building relies heavily on one’s knowledge and understanding of culture, so it might be a good time to remind you of the various posts on that topic elsewhere in the blog.
Collective team building is a “top tier” process. You will be dealing with numerous people, groups and sub teams who need to become part of your overall team, therefore, diligent research, bags of empathy, a healthy dose of humility, an ability to negotiate and a willingness to compromise all play a part in collective team building.
At the outset, this is principally a leadership task, rather than a management task, as one needs to overcome cynicism, doubt and possibly hostility with strength, emotional fortitude and conviction – the traits of a good leader.
In addition to the colossal athenaeum of theories on Leadership v Management, here’s my succinct addition:
Leaders inspire, managers motivate
In this first phase, or category, inspiration is the order of the day.
I’ve been involved in various foreign assignments so, in addition to the need to communicate the goal and vision, there were language and cultural obstacles to overcome; the method differed, not the outcome.
In collective team building one needs to work from the top down, a method often frowned upon in management theory: Why top down?
Influencers within your immediate team need to be congruent with your message; they need to disseminate that message positively to their colleagues, naturally and unwitting of influence. This method, if done with sincerity and empathy, is highly effective; it establishes early on the veracity of your message and vision via trusted sources, top down (for further insight into this methodology see the associated article on Objective team building, part 2 of teams).
As I have stated in other posts, consistency and honesty play a major part here. Getting it wrong at this stage cannot be easily undone or fixed, you are communicating to a broad and often disparate group of people so, prepare.
It seems like a good time to skip back to the beginning of this process, to your preparation. It really bears fruit to write down your vision; does it make sense and resonate with you and can you keep this message consistent throughout the phases?
Self analyse, or better still, ask a colleague; create counterpoint to your message and debate until any discord or contention are explained, if not fully commutated. Ultimately, this will be an exercise in compromise, the larger the group, the higher the number of potential sceptics, if you can inspire the large majority, peer pressure will help you to bring the rest on board.
The 15th Century, English monk, John Lydgate put it most aptly,
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”
When communicating your vision to the wider group, choose the best method to ensure that everyone will hear the same message in the same format. If your language is not the native language of your audience, then choose a translator who is a trusted influencer and practice the content with them. Often your words, in your language will not translate well/at all (humour, for example, does not translate at all well so keep the jokes out of your presentation); listen to your translator, draft and edit the content to make it suitable and appropriate for language and cultural differences.
One thing that is vitally important is the way in which you present your words; they must INSPIRE. This can be difficult when working through a translator but regardless of whether that is or isn’t the case, keep your sentences and clauses short, punchy and simple (this, unfortunately, is my biggest failure. I have had too many occasions where my passion and my delivery have overwhelmed the message through the lack of pause for translation).
I can’t offer any tips on content, of course but suffice to say, your presentation needs to have set out your vision, it needs to have been clearly understood by all and you should have a large majority of the audience inspired and willing to follow.
As a good guide to one’s success, or otherwise, there are a few indicators that have helped me in the past. Observe carefully individuals and groups as they leave, body language is rarely wrong when people have been recently focussed, so look for the positives; smiling, nodding and even lingering after the meeting are good indicators of current advocates and future influencers. You may get asked questions during or after the meeting but if not, don’t let this disappoint or dishearten you, this is the genesis of your team; be patient. Saying that, if you do receive questions, ensure you answer in accordance with the rules of honesty and sincerity and don’t be afraid to answer, “I’ll get back to you on that point” but make sure that a) you do and b) highlight the fact that you did so in your next meeting, identifying the interlocutor by name.
At the inaugural communications meeting in a recent assignment, I had finished the presentation when a young chap who worked in production approached me and, after apologising for his broken English, asked a question. This was, in itself, a resounding confirmation of what I had set out to achieve; here was a production operative who had listened to the message and was inspired, he told me that he had heard via colleagues of the vision that I had just presented and wanted to be part of it.
I’m delighted to inform you that this chap went on to be justifiably promoted within his department and became a key contributor and exponent of many of the improvement projects that were introduced into the business.
In the next article I look at Objective team building
© Andy Collinsson 2020