As I reflect on the latest series of “team” posts and how my methodology has developed over time, it struck me that the phases might appear to happen sequentially, but that isn’t the case. They are written that way to demonstrate to the reader the different skills required to achieve each stage, yet they happen in tandem; even the categories should happen simultaneously.
Approaching the management challenges set forth, in defined and separate stages would prevent an organic process; a team needs to evolve and will not develop when approached in a staccato fashion.
When forming Collective teams, Leadership/Management is a 60/40 ratio; for Objective teams that ratio is the opposite. In building Collective teams, the parts of Ethos and Logos in Aristotle’s Rhetorical Theory(1) are predominantly employed to establish credibility, and outline the objective. With Objective teams, both Ethos and Logos play an important part but Pathos takes prominence. At this point, motivating, supporting and listening become the principal criteria to forge a solid trust between the manager and the team.
As the disruption stage unfolds, the fledgling team are open and receptive and are acting alone, to achieve the new, broader remit. Now they want – need – to be seen as accomplished and creative as individuals; think of this as re-establishing credibility within the peer group, as well as with the new manager.
When people are concentrating their efforts on displaying their skills and talent, psychological receptors are in “receive” mode. Now is the opportune time to begin forming the team relationship.
Knowing you, knowing me – forming the relationship
When thinking about what to write for this part, I was reminded about a very recent event that happened when my wife had a change of manager. Faced with the lockdown restrictions on face to face meetings, her new boss sent out a video conference invite to all of his new reports, individually, to discuss the past, present and future; text book team building that was effective in establishing support and trust.
That approach, in this “new normal”, adds to other methods that I’ve used at this stage; the formal and the informal. With the exception of the video example above, using either approach is a matter of personal preference. Both work but the circumstances required different approaches to the managerial challenges presented, at that time .
The formal interview method worked best for me within hierarchical cultures, such as the Middle East and CEE, where status was very clearly defined. The interview allows the manager to be seen as a person who will listen, absorb and consider the points that the individual has to offer.
To show fairness and equality, it’s important to allocate comparable interview time to each individual and keep to a similar line of questioning, remembering Pathos as stated earlier. Keep control of the conversation; while it is important to listen, here is not the time nor place to provide solutions or answers, reacting with commitment could impact future plans. The interview is about communication and agenda, and both must be controlled.
At the midway point of the interview, talk about the business objective(s) (what), the involvement of the team (how) and the impact upon the individual (why. Also known as “What’s In It For Me” factor). Midway is a good time; too early and the focus is not on the interviewee, too late and the interviewee is less receptive, they have less reason to listen. Finally, ensure consistency in acknowledgement and response; conversations will occur after the meetings have concluded and inconsistency will cause serious issues and “remembered pain” (Herzberg (2)).
Accomplishing the less formal method is best described as “difficult”. It is relevant when the overall style of management leans more to coaching and development, rather than directive. One to one meetings are helpful in conjunction with this method, although they should be used as an extension to conversations, rather than set pieces; a conversation that started in a corridor, for example, that touches on an important facet of the process can be taken to the manager’s office for a more in depth discussion. This method takes time and effort and should only really be required when there are factions within a group or team that need extra effort to establish trust in the manager/team relationship.
Whichever methodology is used, the outcome needs to be the same; trust and understanding throughout the team.
Preparing for the organisational structure
When the objective team building process began, there were an incumbent group of individuals who had established roles and responsibilities. The phases undertaken so far will have gone some way to developing trust in relationships but keep in mind the overall business objective and what is required from team members.
I am an exponent of person first, role second, with the caveat that the person is qualified to function within the role (a person doesn’t need to be a technical expert, in all cases). Creating a team is a balancing act of human emotions and the adept manager needs to ensure agreement, if not harmony, most of the time.
As the disruption phase progresses, one will have a fair indication of the technical competence and ability of the individuals within the team and the interview phase provides a broad understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses.
To conclude this post, here is an example of how these phases merge:
In a recent assignment, I encountered a situation with a Chief Engineer who was labelled, anecdotally, as the best Engineer in the group but was seen as a complete failure by the plant GM. I interviewed him at length and was able to establish sufficient rapport to get him to agree to tasks that were well within his remit but maybe outside his area of interest. It became obvious, quickly, that he was quite brilliant at things he liked but literally lied his way through tasks he didn’t, and couldn’t, achieve. In this example, the phases shifted, discretely and allowed the removal of a troublesome influence on the team.
In part 3 I will look at the necessity of stability and how to harness that to create a performing team.
© Andy Collinsson June 2020