This post was written by our Director of Behavioural Learning and Head of Perform Division, Roger Ayres.
Do you find you regularly have to step in to resolve tensions in your team? Or do you feel your ambitions are being stifled because your colleagues can’t, or don’t, work well together?
Team dynamics play a significant part in every aspect of a business – profitability, performance, staff retention, reputation and more – so it is no wonder that when they go wrong, the impact can be devastating for organisations as well as individuals.
In my role as a behavioural learning specialist, I lift the lid on lots of teams across different sectors, to help them discover how they can work better together. In this article, I outline some of the common themes I have uncovered and the interventions which are available to create a motivated, happy and productive group of team players.
My first observation is that almost everybody I meet comes to work with a positive intention – wanting to do a good job and with a clear desire to achieve, personally and professionally. But that said, many find themselves within teams where they struggle to work effectively for different reasons. That is when challenging behaviours seem to come to the fore. When these are not resolved, either the firm, the individual, or both, lose out. Talented people can be lost because they choose to jump ship, or they are pushed, with all that involves. Or worse still, a stalemate occurs where issues are not resolved in the long term, effecting productivity and dampening enthusiasm, sometimes with a knock-on effect across the wider business.
So where do things go wrong if people want to do a good job and an organisation has invested heavily in recruiting the best talent? What I discover time and time again during my observations is an unhealthy dominance of personality type, combined with a lack of empathy for others and how they tick. One team I worked with recently was awash with dominant, strident people, rather than a mix of different personality types which would complement each other. The boss had subconsciously recruited people who were like them. This worked well to challenge thinking but far less well when collaborating, leading to conflict. Once this was understood and behaviours put into context, this team found a better way to rub along and focus as a team on the strategic objectives in hand.
What’s the answer when there is this unbalance? I find you can improve the way most teams work together by creating shared understanding of the similarities and differences within the team. One preference is to use a psychometric testing tool to help. I am an accredited Insights Discovery practitioner and find this approach invaluable, as it is easy for individuals to understand their own preferences and how they show up to others, as well as those of their colleagues and to appreciate why they might be prompting a certain reaction to certain behaviours.
I also use intact team observation to help teams identify team dynamics. As a third party it is fascinating to observe board meetings, team catch-ups, project updates which demonstrate the behaviours and dynamics that are hindering progress. From these candid observations, once they are fed back, we develop training interventions to help team members develop complimentary skills. Sometimes this involves working as a whole team on group exercises but it may also include targeted development for individuals, so they can build traits such as resilience, develop their personal presence or improve the way they handle difficult conversations or conflict. It depends on the team and the problems they are experiencing, how extensive or intensive the programme of intervention should be.
The final and most important step is to reach a situation where every team member gets behind a shared purpose. Not because their boss says they must but because they believe in shared goals and are willing to go that extra mile.
By working with teams in this way, I find it is possible to pave the way for remarkable things to happen, even with previously dysfunctional teams. The aim must always be to reach a point where the team is greater than its parts.
Today’s employment market definitely lends itself to investment in existing teams ahead of expensive and lengthy recruitment processes. This is the quickest and most cost-effective way to get results.
If this sounds interesting? Find out how Roger Ayres can help your team, including a team assessment.