Most office professionals would agree teamwork is an essential part of making a business or organisation thrive. But what is the secret to successful team cohesion and motivation? In an article featured in the latest edition of Manager magazine (Q1, 2015), Richard Pagett reports.
No matter where you sit in an organisation, teamwork is a vital element of work culture. Creating and leading a team and then motivating those individuals to work together towards a common goal is not as simple as saying “just get on with it”. Get it wrong and badly functioning teams can slow down or even damage business growth.
Luckily, there are experts and business leaders who are all too happy to help with advice, training and real life anecdotes. Talk with them and you will soon find that even if you have the obvious monetary rewards in place and the correct salary levels for the individuals in the team, there is so much more to team management than hard cash and targets. Penny Davenport, for instance, is a career mentor and business coach. She utilises a unique programme, which includes a personality test allowing individuals to identify their communication style, strengths and weaknesses and ultimately motivate them in their roles.
“An effective team will be absolutely 100% clear on their goal. Ideally, teams are structured so that everyone has a clear role and brings something unique and valuable to the table,” she explains. “Knowing your role, and what everyone else has to do, is a great way of ensuring you are firing on all cylinders. This isn’t always easy to achieve though and sometimes you have to make the best of what you have. This means that the Team Leader needs to set a tone of good collaboration and understanding, right from the top.”
Therefore it is vitally important people understand their role within a team, so they can perform as closely to, or even surpass their manager’s expectations. This is echoed by Helena Mann, Operations Manager at Crunch Accounting, an online accountancy service, which employs 145 people looking after around 5,700 customers. She believes a lot of successful team management comes down to recognising individual needs and placing people in teams with similar personality types.
“If we see that individuals in a team are not engaged, or are not meeting their personal targets, we will talk to them one-on-one and discover what will help them to get involved more and work harder,” she explains. “Often it’s just a case of clashing personalities and teams may need to be re-shuffled accordingly.”
Helena says her company encourages teamwork by setting targets which suit individual teams and where all employees, regardless of their job, have a role in achieving that monthly goal.
“We have two teams that are very competitive so we set them targets to compete with one another – this motivates them,” she continues. “Another team is very quiet and wouldn’t work well with competition so we set them different targets with more suitable methods of meeting them. Other teams are motivated by statistics and so we send them reports to show their weekly performance – it’s not a one-size fits all situation.”
Learning to handle different personalities and perspectives is an essential skill for any team leader or manager. Team dynamics will mean people will hold differing views, morals and ideas on life, business and the universe! One of the “softer” skills, which perhaps cannot be taught at business school, is the ability for a manager to empathise with their team and get to the root cause of a difficulty or barrier to progress.
Kevin Byrne, Managing Director and Founder of Checkatrade.com, which provides access to trustworthy tradespeople through its website, believes that empathy really helps with the human element of dealing with issues that arise in a team dynamic.
“At Checkatrade we have a wonderful team and a great business which drives us all forward. But you could have a great service or product with a dysfunctional team – they gossip, back bite and are unmotivated – and I promise you it will fail. I often say people are more important than business and I genuinely believe this.”
Just as Penny Davenport suggests, he looks to set the right tone at the very top of the company. When every new member of staff joins the company Kevin spends an hour with each of them. “People ask me how I have time and why on earth I do this. My answer is it makes them feel appreciated and special. I am flabbergasted that bosses can’t see why this is so important,” he explains.
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