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  • Writer's pictureSara

"'Team Work' makes the 'Dream Work'"

Have you seen this phrase anywhere?

What does this mean to you? Have you been in the perfect team what did it look like?

As I am 58 I can categorically say that I have been in a few teams and it would be fair to say that I have experienced a dream team and I have experienced the catastrophic breakdown that happens when each team members goal is tugging away from the central goal. As with most things involving people or possibly any living being - communication is the foundation in getting this to work.

My personal experiences include scaling a 6ft wall within a team assault course, and running down a brick wall with a gap in it - we were all clear on the goal, as a team we needed to reach the end point together. Different team members were better at different parts. Some had better leg strength, whilst others had a strong upper body so could haul themselves up to sit on the wall and pull the next person up. Smaller team members were able to whizz through the tunnels calling encouragement out to those who had to belly crawl to fit through.

An express coaching client with the goal of exploring how they could improve the team cohesiveness recognised that they struggled with sharing vision and goals especially when their own concept of the bigger picture was flawed or had information gaps. We often see a chain of communication sent through organisations with a directive of a possible change but it is not accompanied with a well prepared fact sheet of what ifs for those detailed Myers Briggs Type sensing people. If you are going to pull the rug out from under their feet then they will reach out for something to stop them falling, in communication this is represented by the questions that they ask.

How do you prepare for this conversation? It does help if you understand your own communication preferences, and it also might help if you understand how change affects different people. Acceptance of new ideas can follow each individuals adoption of technology curve. There are other indicators that you might notice amongst your team on how comfortable they are with change. A team member might be like me I like change and trying out new technology, but I also like a firm foundation to return to that gives me stability.

The express coaching client was able to see that some of their staff were early adopters, with a succinct communication style that clashed with the team members who were more conservative in their approach.

Using this concept that some people are excited by new ideas and will want to try things out, how much information do you think they will need to try your ideas out? Think about FOMO, some people will join in because they see that the charismatic visionary member is getting on board and on they hop fearing they might be left behind. Do you recognise this person? Note they could suddenly realise that they jumped on the wrong change train and the doors closed before it dawned on them. They might scarper at the next station and return to the conservative or even laggard position.

Returning to my own experiences, as I said I enjoy a modicum of change I also enjoy surprises and trying out new technology. I had an amazing boss who often dropped new ideas and surprise projects which I found energising and challenging to my need for development. I became accustomed to the concept that my day would often offer me something new and zingy that would be exciting to get involved. Yet a colleague who was more conservative saw these novel ideas as addition of stress to their already busy day.

How do you communicate these changes to vastly different people?

Each team does need a healthy mix of different preferences as their skills can be utilised to ensure that not only is the change energised by the early adopters, but it is followed through and sustained by the meticulous conservatives and laggards.

What can work (I am not guaranteeing it will) is to treat your team like adults and share the change that has been presented to you and ask for suggestions on how it might be tackled - doing this at the beginning, being honest about what you know and don't know, collating a list of questions to take back to the source, can help place control back in the room, lessening the disruptiveness to the team dynamic.

Tips include:

  • Timing of delivering ideas - allow people time to acknowledge and react.

  • Don't throw the grenade into a already stressed room.

  • Prepare staff by having the resources available to support them if they react badly.

  • Bribery - yes behaviourism suggests we all like sweeteners - cake and good coffee, put most people into a favourable mindset.

  • Be clear about what you are trying to achieve.

If you would like to explore these topics further - I can recommend a variety of reading material. My pile currently includes Key Concepts in Leadership (Gopee et al, 2012) Check out chapter 10 Colleague-Leading and Leading Prima Donnas.

Interested in being coached by me? Contact me for a free chemistry session.

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