Regardless of the occupation or industry, an effective team is critical for organisational success. In order to maximise team performance, it is necessary for managers to create an environment that is inclusive, collaborative and takes into consideration the needs of the individual as well as the requirements of the team.
Being part of an effective team is a fantastic feeling and fosters organisational loyalty that can produce flow on benefits. A loyal employee will work harder and produce better results, often going above and beyond expectations.
It is up to the manager of a team to initiate enabling strategies that will create the environment for the team to thrive. This can be problematic, particularly for new managers inheriting a less than favourable situation. If individual employees are cynical or have become discontent with work then they may seek to undermine or resist any process of change. A competent manager will understand the environment they must operate within and modify their plans accordingly. It may be necessary to implement a change management plan incrementally, over a period of time, to reduce the risk of shocking the employees and destabalizing the workplace.
The following offers a number of practical strategies that have the potential to transform the working environment from toxic to terrific.
1. Regular Team Meetings
It may sound simplistic, but the benefits of regular team meetings are profound. A get together as little as once per week provides the opportunity to share successes, discuss issues and offer advice. The meetings may be brief. Depending upon the size of the team, half an hour or less may be sufficient for each team member to outline their current activities. The manager should also utilise the opportunity to communicate information that is relevant to the team such as current levels of team performance, safety issues and training opportunities. Setting an agenda before the meeting will ensure the allocated time is utilised efficiently and everyone has the opportunity to participate. Team meetings should proceed at all costs. It should be a rarity for the meeting to be cancelled. Too often, it is easy for a team meeting to be called off due to a conflicting managerial priority. As a manager, dedicating this time to your team is an indication of your commitment to them.
2. Feedback and Guidance
As a manager, it is your job to mentor employees and provide them with a clear direction, both in terms of their position within the organisation and their own personal career. It is therefore critical to provide regular feedback on individual performance to ensure that employees understand the contribution they make to the team and the organisation as a whole. People need to know where they fit in and making them feel valued will fuel their commitment and drive them to greater levels of performance. Constructive criticism can be a positive motivator for an individual as long as they have a clear understanding of expectations and how they may work towards performing at the required level. Whilst team feedback should be provided during a meeting, comments directed at an individual should be private. Of course, if a situation warrants showering a person with public praise then this should be done in a way that avoids embarrassment.
Managers must be acutely aware of the responsibility attached to their position and ensure a fine balance is maintained as they play the role of mentor, motivator, overseer and mediator. A modicum of distance needs to be maintained so the employee/manager relationship is well understood. A manager who is considered as a friend to their employees may have their judgment impaired if a difficult decision needs to be made.
3. Celebrate Success
Celebrating team success is a great way to acknowledge the hard work that has gone into delivering a positive outcome for the organisation. After all, as a manager, positive outcomes are what you strive for. If your employees are rewarded for a good result then they will continue to assist you in achieving organizational goals. A celebration of success does not necessarily mean an extravagant, expensive event. A simple, understated affair is sufficient to demonstrate to the team that you, as the manager, and the organisation, as the employer, appreciate their effort and the sacrifice they have made to achieve the result. The opportunity to reflect on a job well done and pat each other on the back can work wonders for team morale and propel team performance to even higher levels of achievement.
4. Training Opportunities
Consistently offering training and development opportunities to employees is a way to refresh, maintain and improve team knowledge. It also allows the individual to grow personally, endearing them to the organisation and making them more likely to remain as a long term employee. Performance reviews are an ideal time to review training requirements and determine if the employee is interested in personal development. An effective manager will ensure they are consistently offering training opportunities. Investment in employee development will pay dividends in the future and increase worker satisfaction and loyalty.
Training does not necessarily have to be expensive, nor does it need to be intensive. Quite often, a refresher course is sufficient to ensure the employee remains up to date and informed of industry developments. If the resourcing requirements of the business unit allow it, a training course involving the entire team may be beneficial in not only developing individual skills but providing the opportunity for team building. A team that trains together is more likely to develop personal bonds that will be sustained and enhanced back in the office.
The time and effort that a manager puts in to their employees has a direct correlation with worker commitment, satisfaction and performance. Creating and nurturing an environment that is conducive with a high level of performance requires a consistent and methodical approach. The dynamic of the team and the will and skill of the manager are strong influencing factors. The simple, but powerful, strategies outlined in this article will assist managers in developing a positive working environment. Managerial commitment to the individual and dedication to the team drives organisational performance and, ultimately, will deliver successful outcomes.