Monday, 11 January 2010

‘A team or A-team?’

There is a difference.....

According to Katzenbach (2007:38) a team is:

‘A small number of people with complementary skills, who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.’

Notice the word complimentary – indicating that everyone works together for the benefit of the task. A team is different to a group of people simply working together.

Kirby (2003:190) states that team work requires energy combined with patience, clear leadership, intense relationships, total trust, learning from failure and rules of behaviour that are understood by all members.

Needless to say these are things that are easier said than done. There is bound to be disagreement in groups – however this can be minimised...

To structure my dream team I have decided to use the Belbin team roles.

I prefer to work in smaller groups as I find communication more effective and there is less chance for people to become ‘social loafers’ on the basis they think someone else will take up the slack. My dream team members know their team roles and understand their strengths and weaknesses. I am a shaper so am able to motivate a team and get the work started however I am in need of a completer- finisher as they have an attention to detail that I lack but I work well with them because they possess the same sense of urgency that I do so will be good at meeting schedules that are set. An implementer would also have a place in my dream team because of their characteristic loyalty and lack of interest with self-interest. I like working with people who have good self-discipline and who have common sense; these are characteristics which implementers foster.

As much as I hate to admit it I think I would need a monitor evaluator in my group, someone who takes a step back to look at things objectively and critically. Otherwise I am likely to take an idea and run with it and not think about all the factors. I do think I would get slightly irritated with their analysing mentality...however this is something I would have to accept in order to utilise their skills and benefit the team.

One team role I feel I could do without in my group is that of resource investigator. There role includes finding external contacts and promising ideas or opportunities. However because of them losing interest in the task once the initial excitement has passed I would find them very challenging to work with. Perhaps this is more to do with my leadership style – I like people to motivate themselves and have the same level of interest in the task at hand as I do. I would constantly have to motivate them and make sure their lack of enthusiasm didn’t rub off on the rest of the group – plus if someone isn’t interested in a task it’s guaranteed they won’t be working to the best of their ability.

With all team roles there are undesirable qualities and this is something I have learnt. However if all team members understand each other’s weaknesses but use their strengths then the team will work well. Before this group task and particularly last year I had a strong dislike for people challenging my ideas and took it as a personal attack. However I have now learnt that there will always be people who challenge them....and its often how you get the best ideas and it’s nothing personal. I never thought I would say can’t surround yourself with ‘yes men’ otherwise you won’t push yourself. Of course you would get ‘good’ ideas but they wouldn’t be the best. As a leader and a team member you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes and this includes admitting them. Its often better if an idea doesn’t go as planned because then you can get constructive criticism and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Members have their own strengths and weaknesses and it is up to others to bring out the best. There needs to be a common set of goals to work towards and all parties need to be agreed on these. There also needs to be communication both inside and outside the task at hand – even if it is just a ‘Hi – How are you?’ message. This is something I have learnt as being friends with some of the members of my team meant that I can work with them better as I understand the reasons they are the way they are.

One role of a leader that I would like to work on in the future is that of developing others and making sure they get something out of the group work. I want people to feel positively after working with me and want to work with me again. That doesn’t just mean getting a good mark but I would like a reputation as someone who not only works hard, gets the work done but is nice to work with...there is a fine line between getting the work done and just being mean. As people get to know me within the group situation they see that I am softer than initially thought but not a pushover. There is the old army saying:

‘One volunteer is worth 10 pressed men’

It’s true. I am glad I have realised this now and it will certainly be something that I remember in future.

Clutterbuck, D. (2007) Coaching the Team and Work, Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Kirby, DA., (2003) Entrepreneurship, Mcgraw Hill Education

‘Opposites attract?!’

This is sometimes true in relationships....but what about in group work? The Belbin team role test identifies 8 different team roles with distinct characteristics:

· Shaper – highly motivated, outgoing, dynamic and competitive. Prone to irritation and impatience and a tendency to offend others.

· Plant – innovative, creative, problem-solving and original. Up in the clouds, inclined to disregard practical details.

· Co-ordinator – calm, self controlled and self confident. No pretensions as regards intellectual or creative ability.

· Monitor-evaluator – serious, prudent, critical thinker and analytical. Lack of inspiration or the ability to motivate others.

· Implementer – loyal, structured, reliable and dependable. Lack of flexibility, resistance to unproven ideas.

· Resource Investigator – good communicator, networker, negotiator and outgoing. Liable to lose interest once the initial fascination has passed.

· Team-worker – sociable, adaptable, calming influence and supportive. Indecision at moments of crisis and some failure to provide a clear lead to others.

· Completer-finisher – attention to detail, accurate, high standards and quality orientated. A tendency to worry about small things and a reluctance to ‘let go’

· Specialist – technical expert, high capability, driven by personal standards and has high knowledge. Contribute only on a narrow front.

With these team roles however there are weaknesses that need to be recognised shown in italics.

I felt looking at the team roles at the beginning of the group task that it was funny to find out how people came out however I didn’t initially see how they were helpful...but by the end of the task reflecting on them I can see a lot of the characteristics of my team within the roles.

Mr Do It is definitely a complete finisher and an implementer – efficient in his work, hard working and a team member who compliments my role and is pivotal to the group’s success.

Miss Sweetheart is a co-ordinator, has no prejudice and kept sight of the main objective.

Mr Laid Back is a team worker; he listens and helps the work get done.

Mr Talker is a resource investigator and his weakness was evident – once the task had been started he took the main role at the first meeting however as the task went on he lost interest and even missed meetings.

Miss Surprise was a team worker; she was perceptive and listened at group meetings.

My role within the group is that of Shaper – I thrive on pressure and am ready to challenge ineffectiveness. I work well with complete finishers as I need someone to channel my creativity and enthusiasm. Because we were a new team I feel my role was important as we needed a shaper to get started. Another thing I have learnt is that depending on the circumstances a leader needs to adapt their style to meet the needs of their team members. No-one reacts well to being shouted at...

It is important to note however that a team member can play more than one role in a group and personality traits and personal problems can overtake the role people take. Conflict occurs when there is more than one person with a strong team role such as that of shaper or plant with neither of them wanting to take another role. There will always be issues in a group in 1965 Tuckman (Kirby:2003:192) produced a model for group formation:

Forming – the group looks to a powerful leader for guidance.

Storming – now the group fragments, members stress their own needs and concerns and resist the influence of the group.

Norming – group cohesion develops –there is a conscious effort to avoid conflict situations.

Performing – Energy is channelled into the task.

Adjourning – The group is wound down.

Groups need to get past the storming phase otherwise they will fail at the task. One of the ways to do that is to place emphasis on building relationships and maintaining them. There needs to be an extra effort outside of the working environment to keep communication channels open, however the relationships have to kept professional, personal problems should be left at home. As a group we didn’t have any major problems because of the size of the team it meant tasks could be carried out without all members being present...if the situation would have been different and we were being marked on the task then I think there would have been more disagreements.

According to Clutterbuck in his book ‘Coaching the Team and Work’ the bigger the group – the lower the productivity and a greater propensity to experience ‘social loafing’ – personally I am glad there is an academic term for general lay abouts…those that expect others to take up the slack...the words I think of can’t be used. Luckily in this group there wasn’t too much social loafing but I have experienced it in other group work and it can be VERY irritating.

Clutterbuck, D. (2007) Coaching the Team and Work, Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Kirby, DA., (2003) Entrepreneurship, Mcgraw Hill Education

‘Wanna be in my team, my team, my team?!’

Introducing the team members:

Mr Laid Back – attended the meetings, was sometimes late but was a constant and valuable team member.
Mr Talker – comes up with good ideas and likes the bureaucracy of group work – however sometimes lacks execution.
Mr Do It – knows what needs to be done and does it. Enough said.
Miss Surprise – The dark horse. I started out being unsure of her in the group however by the end she surprised me by taking the initiative and being a hard worker.
Miss Sweetheart – a genuinely nice young lady. Attended all meetings, contributed good ideas and was reliable.

Oh and me....”Carly?...she is bossy, controlling, acts like my mum, steamrollers the conversation, doesn’t listen, makes decisions, reliable, gets the work done, passionate, earns respect, has the courage to be loud, can handle difficult situations and is very organised.” These are all words and phrases I have heard being used to describe me. You know something? I am proud of them. Some of them are negative however that’s me.

There are certain things I look for from people within a group situation. I like:

· A mature and positive attitude

· Punctuality - Miss Sweetheart was always there on time and was a brilliant member of the team. She didn’t talk all the time but came up with good ideas and voiced anything she didn’t agree with – she was a reliable member of the team.

· Enthusiasm - Miss Surprise was. She independently emailed the company that the brief had been set on and asked if they could send any promotional material they had already produced.

· Confidence - Mr Do It had it. He knew what he was doing and remained a strong team member throughout. I have worked with him in other group work and I feel we complement each other.

· People who use their role to their advantage - This was evident with Mr Do It, Mr Laid Back and Miss Sweetheart – I feel they know their roles and use them to their advantage. Mr Talker knows his role however I felt that he was slightly confused...if I hadn’t have been in the group I feel he would have utilised his role better.

I would say that the qualities I am looking for are the same that are necessary in the workplace …so you could say I am preparing my team members for the outside world of work.

If you plan on joining my team here are a few pointers as of – ‘what not to do’:

· Don’t consult the team on a major decision – right at the beginning of the group work Mr Laid Back invited someone else to the group without consulting us – this is a person who had not attended any of the previous seminars, this concerned me, I didn’t know what this girl was like and to be honest wasn’t too happy she was in the group. Miss Surprise earned her name however as she pulled through – attended the seminars and worked on the presentation.

· Poor and negative attitude

· Be unwilling to participate or make suggestions

· Lateness – this is really something that gets me. Mr Talker was late to one of the meetings and totally forgot about another one....however instead of getting stressed I just accepted that they were late and carried on with the meeting as I would have done if he was there.

· Have volatile moods - this is something that used to affect me and then I worked with someone who acted the same way, I realised what an undesirable environment it caused and I changed my behaviour.

· Fail to keep promises – Mr Talker said he would take the presentation away to work on – ‘fluff up’ was the distinct phrase that was used. However later in the evening I had received nothing – I had to then follow it up – something in me wanted to sit back to see what happened but I got the impression it would have been: nothing.

In previous group work it has been said that I act like my team members mothers...taking the adult role – however I have now noticed if I take such a role they are more than likely to revert to the child role and I will have to mother them even more.

I often ask myself:

What could I do to make myself more of a desirable team member?

I used to think that I should try another role and take the non-leadership role...easier for me and I will probably blend into the background of the team more. Plus if things go wrong I can’t be blamed as I will have just been doing what I have been told to do. There is someone else in that role, the operational one who crosses the T’s and dots the I’s. I also don’t feel I would be beneficial in that role as what would happen if no-one else took the role....or even worse if someone who wasn’t competent did?! Overall I would say I am a useful member to have in a team. I provide team members with the tools they need to motivate themselves and give them a person to come to if they are stuck. I used to give the impression I was unapproachable and would bite somebody’s head off but over the past couple of months I have started to understand that I can’t control other people’s lives and not everyone puts the same amount of effort in as me. Plus sometimes circumstances take over and it alters the plan.

However....I’m not perfect....I need to work on appreciating others team member’s roles and understand how they help get the work done. This is something that the module ‘Managing PR’ has helped me with. Instead of focusing on the fact that someone isn’t a good leader they might still be pivotal to the team because of the research they carry out.

In the next 2 blogs I will be discussing team roles, how they all work together to get the best results and also what I need to work on to be a better team member....

Friday, 8 January 2010

Up coming...

So after my 3rd night in a row sledging and playing in the snow - it's back to reality! So now that I have regained the feeling in my fingers and toes I will be blogging my little heart out...

The next 3 blogs that I will be posting are along the theme of team work.

In one of my university modules, Managing PR, we were given a group task of creating a brief to give to another group for them to generate ideas. We also responded to a brief that we had been given. The aim of the task however was to see how well the teams worked....or how successfully they failed...

So keep your eyes peeled to see how I got on :-) I am sure there will be some new people visiting my blog...