New year’s resolutions – learning

As it is nearly the beginning of a new year, 2014, it seems timely to make some new year’s resolutions. I’m not a big believer in them essentially as I think they often set one up for failure, but as 2013 was such a transitional and challenging year, coming out of a very difficult 2012, it seems fitting to not only draw a line under it, in terms of personal challenges, but also new academic and learning challenges. Consequently, I have many habits and inefficient learning practices that I know I’m aware of but I have accepted up until now, as part of my process. But if my 2014 year, is truly going to be a year of change, it is important to not let self-awareness automatically become self-acceptance without good reason.

Learning Resolutions

  • I will stop letting my love of research, detail and planning get in the way of action – I’ve noticed that I allow myself to procrastinate under the guise of planning and perfectionism. I am only quick to act, when I have the support and push of a team as a motivator or when I have crisis. Consequently, I will use my team, a group of activists, as a driving force and stop procrastinating.
  • I will be more tactical about my learning with an awareness of when deep learning and surface learning is appropriate – I find everything interesting and I love furthering my knowledge. Sometimes, this is at the expense of whether it is relevant or not. Consequently, when I come to the point of writing an essay or compiling a report, I find I have a silly amount of information and wading through it, takes as long as the actual researching did. I need to be more restrained when researching so as to learn more effectively in order to stop bombarding myself and my team with knowledge.
  • I will take proper time off and do productive things – I’m a real workaholic, between my University and working 20hours a week running events. Consequently, the only real time I take off is when I am either ill or when I’m hung-over. Therefore, I never feel that I have a proper break away from thinking, doing other things I enjoy and this is to the detriment of my learning. Sometimes I have periods when I can’t concentrate but I force myself to sit and work. I also work for extended periods without having breaks, which is equally as unproductive. I want to start running again and to do things I enjoy outside of education and working, which I feel with restore the work life balance I am currently missing.
  • I will stop being distracted by distractions – When I reflect on my working practices through-out the day, I often conclude that what I’ve done in 8hours, I could have done in 5hours. This is usually because I have Facebook on in the background, I answer work/University emails and I text. Consequently, I lose little chunks of time, end up distracted and take a while to get back into what I was thinking about. I need to be really strict with my Facebook usage, take proper breaks away from the computer in which I can check my phone.
  • I will stop writing unrealistic, never ending lists – innovate more– I often set myself unrealistic goals and amounts of work to complete in the week and I feel constantly on the back foot. I not only overwhelm myself but overwhelm others in my team, by listing what we need to achieve. I challenge myself to not constrain myself with lists and plans, but to sit and innovate and discover and try the unexpected.
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One step forward….

So today, instead of fiercely guarding my knowledge, I shared it. I didn’t do it by telling someone what to do or by doing it for them either. I facilitated them to make a choice and work it out for themselves.

The end result; they understood the end product of what they were trying to achieve because they had made sense of it for themselves. They also re-interpretted an idea and added to my ideas…….which was interesting, as I would never have looked at the task in the way they have. Whilst, I still like the strategy i have developed so far, their point of view was definately food for thought. We both took something away from the transaction. What did I take away; the tool of comparison.

Working in business teams isn’t so bad….

Question everything

riddler

I heard a very good piece of advice recently, “question everything!” This is something I’ve been brought up to do, something I do daily and I think is a crucial skill within being an entrepreneur. The art of looking at the norm or a product and questioning, “Why does this have to be this way?” and “How could things be improved?” Nothing has to remain the same and nothing should remain unchallenged. That is exactly what entrepreneurs are, they are business challengers.

Questioning things is a deep part of my personality. I believe it improves processes, teams, and business. This aspect of my personality and my willingness to question things, leads me on to the focus of this post. What is the impact of my personality on our business team and on their learning?

Hills (2001:33) defines personality as “the probability of a particular set of behaviours occurring” and considers that “personality drives the nature of interactions between people.” From this evaluation, we can consider personality types are crucial to effective communication between people which is, in turn, crucial to developing an effective team. At first glance, this seems challenging, that who you are and how you are perceived directly impacts on our team. But from previous experience within teams, I would say aspects of my personality have been initially misinterpreted which have had an impact on the team. Once the team has got to know who I am and how I work, the impact is lessened dramatically.

So the questioning begins with my personality type. Well, I could list off a variety of attributes I think I have, but the most effective method of assessing this stems from the Myers Briggs Type Inventory. This comes in the form of a questionnaire and focuses on types of personalities leading to certain likely behaviours. A participant answers certain questions and is labelled a type. My type, is as always, an INTJ, which is apparently quite rare. I have been this type since I took the inventory, ten years ago. The only aspect that has changed, is that gradually, I’m becoming less of a strict thinker, representing the fact I consider people and their feelings on board. I also attempt to be more risk taking and go a little more on my gut instinct.

My results are as follows;

I’m 44% introvert – thought orientated, deep thinker, recharge alone

88% intuitive – seek pattern recognition and meaning

12% thinking – Objective, logical, deductive decision maker

33% judging – Seeks organised and structured learning.

From these results, you can begin to gleam what sort of person I am.

Another method of personality labelling has been put forward by Cattell and Kline (1977) and focuses on personality traits: 16 of them. Within their questionnaire, again you answer a serious of questions and the outcome is you are rated between 0-4 for each trait. The closer you are to 4, the more you are considered to hold the personality trait.

My results were as follows:

Warmth – 2.6

Reasoning – 3.4

Emotional stability – 2.6

Dominance – 3

Liveliness- 2.1

Rule conscious – 2.4

Social boldness – 1.2

Sensitivity – 2.7

Vigilance – 0.6

Abstractedness – 3.3

Privateness – 1.6

Apprehension – 1.7

Openness to change – 3

Self-reliance – 2.8

Perfectionism – 2.1

Tension – 1

So far within my learning, I have focused on self-awareness and self-reflection. This is the starting point. But I’m yet to consider what these results mean in the sense of the team and question the impact of my personality on the team.

Looking at the results so far, the picture paints an introverted, pragmatic individual. One who reacts based on rationality and judgement over feelings. Someone who seeks out meaning, challenges and can be detached and self-reliant. A dominant personality, who welcomes idea exploration and is always open to change.

As Hills (2001) suggests, it is the people within the team that make the team, hence knowing the people within the team and how they interact is so crucial. Consequently, it is the personalities, the mixture of personalities and understanding of those personalities that is the most important in determining the success of a team.  Hills (2001) discusses many barriers to team development and effective team learning, but there were two points, which instantly stuck out to me. He considered two of the barriers are (and he listed many), the detached learner and the self-sufficient learner. These are two aspects of my personality (I am quite detached and I am very self-sufficient) that I have never questioned how they would impact the team.

The detached learner is an introvert, one that doesn’t rely on people, one that needs to process information often in isolation before reflecting back into the group. This personality can be misunderstood, considered aloof and is hard to grasp by learners that like learning alongside other people. Consequently, my quietness in meetings, sitting a part and often leaving a meeting at the end to be on my own, can be (and on reflection, has been) mis-interpreted. It gives off the air of someone who doesn’t actively want to be involved and someone who isn’t interested in engaging with the group on a personal level. This couldn’t be further from the truth it is just the way I naturally am within a business environment.

The self-sufficient aspect has always been something I saw as a strong point. I take ownership of my own learning and I manage my own learning effectively. I don’t bring what I learn back into the team and I don’t actively involve them in the process, I often feel I don’t have to, after all I’m the one engaging in the learning process. Hence, I can come across as the one who seems to know everything or may be more aptly, “the one who think she knows everything”. But within a team learning business environment, I’m not being a team learner and I’m not ensuring the sustainability of the group. I am pocketing knowledge in secret.

Consequently, as a team, we need to take two steps. We need to first learn about our personalities, question them and understand what we do to then communicate that into the team. Secondly, we need to listen to others and how their personality may impact on the team. As a team and as individuals, assessing personality and behaviour, we need to appreciate the importance of diversity. We have a lot of differences, that instead of rejecting; we could focus on as being complimentary when paired together.

Moreover, the key to an effective team is compromise. It is about accepting how you are and how others are and working together on the business in the middle ground. Whilst having awareness, that if someone like me detaches, it is simply to think and reflect, and that will be of benefit to the team. Also, if someone else gets defensive or upset about feedback, it is because they are driven by their emotions; passion is always beneficial within a team. Most importantly, it is having the confidence to question the behaviours and personalities of others, to gain a greater insight and understanding.

As an individual, I can make small changes which will have a big difference, something which Anderson (2013) advocated in one of my previous blog posts. I can stick with the group more, even if just superficially during lectures, seminars and breaks. But I will take my lunch breaks alone; as this is the time I utilise to plan and reflect. In terms of sharing my learning, I can communicate more openly what I’m learning and highlight it within the group. I will stop looking at the learning from the point of view, what do I need to know and what does my business need to launch? Instead, I will look at it strategically considering, what will the team benefit from learning and what does the team need to launch our business.

These steps forward, couldn’t have been made without questioning things that are so natural within my interactions and learning processes; things I’ve never questioned before. Questioning enables progress and change. Therefore, question everything in business, including your personality.

 

 

Communication, communication, communication

Our business team meeting was as ever fruitful, filled with the unspoken and overflowing with frustration. However, this time, it felt positive at the end. It finally felt like a step forward. Through-out our discussion we weaved our way through points that we have been avoiding as a group (although as an individual, I’ve been perfectly aware of these from day one and communicated these many times – but this comes onto communication, the theme of this post) and pragmatically discussed through them. What was the most interesting for me, as I tried to take a neutral, challenging and objective stand point, was that many of the things the team initially rejected in the beginning, especially things I put to the team, in terms of lack of quality in the end product, the team seemed to come full circle in the end and agree that these were lacking.

Points covered within our post-Motorola discussion of the sustainability project were;

  • Communication in the last project was the main issue; we are heavily reliant on Facebook. Meetings are poor productivity wise, due to the lack of engagement and atmosphere we conduct them in. This is a complete lack of understanding and listening within the group.
  • We don’t use our Motorola’s. We see them as things we have to do for our assignment and hence they are completely superficial. Moreover, once we have done the pre-Motorola, we don’t look at it again and assess at the end whether, we’ve achieved our goals. Nor, do we usually complete a post Motorola, assessing our end product.
  • We don’t experiment with different ways of working and we simply repeat similar mistakes, with the soul of aim of completing the project, instead of focusing on how to complete the project in a quality way.
  • We don’t have a middle assessment or break projects down or break roles down or set deadlines, consequently we have a mad rush at the end to pull things together. It isn’t until the end we realise, things we’ve missed, extra research that should have been done and difficulties certain members have been happening.
  • Lack of engagement within projects comes from the fact, many members only get a very superficial understanding of the project and consequently, they can’t penetrate deeper and explore different ideas, as they aren’t aware. Moreover, this leads to a complete lack of understanding with the direction of the project, as members don’t understand why the project ends up going in the direction it goes in.
  • We don’t brain storm in the beginning as a collective, so the project becomes a mish-mash of individual member’s ideas that aren’t developed as a team. Hence the different elements within the project can come across as disjointed. Moreover, certain members feel completely overloaded.
  • We focus on individual contributions instead of the unit contributions; hence issues of blame and such like can come to the fore.

This was a huge step forward in regards of the team identifying problems and developing productively. ; Especially in regards to the issue of communication. We don’t communicate within the group, we don’t communicate ideas, difficulties, we don’t hand over effectively from one section of the project to the end and any forms of communication we do have, are ineffective and inefficient.  , Consequently, each section Research, report and presentation, ends up completely disjointed. We need to consider a productive way to diffuse the knowledge into each, so that understanding isn’t lost. Also, we simply focus on the quality of the visuals of the presentation. As the visuals for our presentation, as always were good, as a team we deem this as good quality. But in fact, I think our presentation was quite poor. We didn’t manage to summarise the report or present our implementation plan; it wasn’t a pitch. As our presenter wasn’t involved in any other area of the project, you could tell when he was presenting the whole, he didn’t really understand a lot of it or was re-interpreting bits, which became misleading to the audience. Once again, effective communication is here, not just within the team but to our wider audience; both are lack. The final delivery of a pitch should be a collective effort and the script should be presented back to the team beforehand for review or even to an outside for feedback.

Waber (2013) considers that the crutch of any successful team and business is the act of meeting face to face, something we try to do once week but we are yet to have a full meeting with every member there. He considers “physical touch promotes closeness which leads to better co-operation and higher performance”. The point of his simple, but insightful article is that whilst when we are greeted with failure and a failing team, we often opt for drastic, physical solutions; in fact small changes can make the difference.  He puts forwards two crucial elements that can unite a business towards performance; increased interaction and dressing the uniting part.

In terms of reflecting and applying this, the most successful teams I’ve been a part of have worked together, met a lot both professionally and socially and viewed themselves as one unit. This bonding came from simply spending time together and instead of looking at a problem, from the view point of a group of individuals; they viewed it as a unit. We also had a leader, me, who really pushed forward communication. I held weekly, often more, meetings to check in and discuss. I relied on these meetings to communicate information and I had a secretary within the group. Someone impartial, who ensured the meeting, went ahead productively. But when assessing the failures of the team, I immediately considered that poor communication was at fault and the team, which was huge and sprawling, relied on tech communication.

A similar situation is happening here, we are too focussed on Facebook, which you can chose to read or not and forget that communication, isn’t just about communicating information and putting forward your ideas and views. It is about developing an effective communication strategy, one that engages all team members and offers the opportunity for feedback and discussion. It is also about feeding off the team in front of you; you can gauge interest levels, motivation and whether the team is actually backing the direction of the project.

Within most forming teams, constant meetings can seem like a bind and unproductive; meeting for meetings sake, especially if the meetings don’t work in terms of engagement. But initially in the beginning formation of a team, I think face to face meeting is crucial. Utilising that time together might be more time consuming in the short term, but in the long term it actually saves time. In Enactus and Gateshead Council for example, the teams are now so established and work together in such a manner, that the amount of meetings needed is reduced and communication over Facebook can occur effectively in the interim. But each team still has regular meetings, whether there are things of importance to discuss or not. Sometimes, meetings are just airing frustrations and updating on our individual work load, with no real sense of urgency; a check in.

Waber’s (2013) other assertion is about dressing the part. Enactus was very focussed on this. In our informal meetings, we dressed down and like ourselves. But in our proper meetings, we dressed smart casual, in business attire and we held our meetings within formal surroundings. We felt professional and business like; consequently, we were more productive and professional in our conduct.  As our team progressed, we eventually opted to wear the colour blue as a uniting uniform. We owned matching tailored shirts and when we went to events, business competitions and meetings, we wore these items to not only set us apart and make us identifiable, but to unite us as a team. There was something very team like and professional about walking into an environment, with a visible uniform. We noticed the change from the fact in uniform we rarely said, “I’m part of Enactus Newcastle”; in fact the response became “we are Enactus Newcastle”. Even as individuals, we referred to ourselves as a “we” and not a distinct unit of the team.

Whilst I don’t believe our team would go for the uniform idea. I do think increasing the amount meetings we hold face to face and we could utilise a uniting factor, by creating a team name with an identity. Instead of approaching the task “what do we have to do”, instead with an identity the question should become “what does Team…. Want to achieve within this?”

Amy Anderson (2013) puts forward other relatively small ideas that could enhance our communication within our team. She puts forward the age old truth that “success in business is greatly impacted for better or worse by the way in which we communicate”. Consequently, assessing our current communication as a team and individuals, it isn’t difficult to see why our productivity and success is limited. In short, our team will not improve, unless we really look deeply at the ways we are communicating and their effectiveness.

Within her article she makes some startling assertions backed by research from Dr Lund, that 8% of communication is based on what you say and 55% on your facial expressions and 37% is based on the tone of their voice. As someone, who takes a lot of time to reflect, before they speak, so usually my words are very considered, I was shocked by this result. Moreover, my body language is very telling and I’m an extremely expressive person. Sometimes I find myself, turning away, crossing arms and becoming completely disengaged if I am approached in an aggressive manner or instantly shot down, when I think something I’ve said deserves a bit more value. I’m not an angry person or aggressive, but what I’ve come to realise about myself, is that I’m very passive aggressive. I can be this way even within the workplace. I clench my jaw, I twist my hair, I pout and I become visibly un-cooperative, I’m no longer listening out of principle. This sounds completely childish, but I know myself and I know when to snap out of it.

As I’m aware of this tendency, I work very hard to try and look at things from the other person’s point of view and attempt to control my body language. To take emotions out of it and to constantly recite the mantra “it’s not personal, it is business”. Gradually, I’m becoming much better at this but I still have my moments, one of which was yesterday within an interaction with a member of our group, where I could simply disengage completely. Instead, I managed to rationalise her comments and realise that the key to the problem was miscommunication within the team; it was not a personal attack. We are both looking at the same issue but from two stand points with two separate insights. In terms of something personal to take forward, I need to consider my body language and the way I communicate in a group and less focus on what I’m saying.

Anderson (2013) develops other communication advice that could be invaluable if applied within our team. Our meetings are often disorganised and people are itching to leave. As Anderson (2013) suggests, within communication (and within meetings), you should set expectations of what you wish to gain out of the communication, which is stated at the beginning and clarify if you have met them at the end. Applying this to our meetings, this involves setting goals and objectives at the beginning of the meeting, not only to guide but to communicate what we need to do with in the time so everyone’s expectations are realistic. We also need to clarify at the end, if we met the goals and objectives, to ensure that our meeting time was efficiently used.

Another point from the article, was the idea that interaction is a two way street. It is not just about letting everyone speak and communicate their points, whilst they all fall into a vacuum. It should be about listening and digesting people’s points. As a team, we are very good at talking and expressing ourselves, which is of course a good thing. But we don’t listen to each other; hence a lot of valuable information, potential ideas and team decisions are lost. We spend a lot of time as a group being confused, lost and not moving forward. Within our team, I spend a great deal of time asking questions and listening to others, especially within our team meetings. I prefer to take a back seat role instead of being so dominant. There are a lot of dominant personalities within the group, so another strong female will only make our meetings more unproductive.

This leads me onto, Anderson’s (2013) final bit of advice; adapt communication style varying to situations. As a team and individuals, we need to adapt to others, within our communication strategy. This comes down to even within our presentations, we don’t communicate effectively or efficiently what we are proposing and pitching. We don’t step it up professionally, as we are simply presenting to our coaches. If we considered our style and our audience more, our communication could be more effective. Moreover, we could take steps in assessing what our key messages are and structuring our communication around them.

The session enabled the team to not only review our past performance, current communication within the group and to reflect on this progress so far, we were also able to strip down Anderson and Waber’s articles and apply key learning from their key points to our future activity as a group. Therefore, as a team we made several positive steps forward for the future, in terms of pragmatic plans;

  • We will take a step back before each project launch initially to refocus and assess our performance from the last project, before storming into the next business project.
  • Before our project launch meeting, individually, we need to go away and make sure we understand the project brief and come up with potential ideas. At the project launch meeting, we will have this in a class room environment and we will facilitate a brain storming session. The planning before the meeting should ensure that our ideas and points are developed; we will go round the room listening to ideas and evaluating and feeding back as a group. We hope that ideas may be developed within the group, provoke contributions, to ensure engagement within the project. This will allow give the whole team the means to really consider the pre-Motorola as a useful tool in planning.
  • We will have more meetings and break them down into beginning, middle and end meetings before delivery of the project so we can be reactive and engage. This middle meeting is crucial to re-assess progress and to check in with everyone’s status. This will also be another face to face form of communication, reducing the confusing occurring due to Facebook. The increased meeting will increase our face to face communication time, which in turn should further bond us as a team.
  • The project manager will be responsible for controlling meetings, facilitating discussion and ensuring we achieve the objectives of the meetings. They will set out what we need to achieve as a team by the end of the meeting. This will mean team members will have more realistic expectations of the time needed and communicating the goals, means progress is more tangible.
  • We will use the Motorola’s more as tools, to use them to help the projects and the weekly reading will be developed to help the project.  The pre-Motorola will be an essential planning tool and mode of reassessment through-out the project. The post Motorola and the pre-Motorola will be effective in terms of reflecting on performances of a past project, especially in regards to the issues we have with communication. Have the communication strategies employed been more effective, efficient and how did they impact on the final product of work.
  • We will consider changing our attire to be more professional when we are working on the business and projects. Moreover, we will also consider uniting ourselves under a team name, creating an identity. Our meetings will be approach more professionally with attitude, preparation and we will select a better environment to enhance this.

These really pragmatic solutions are a step forward to try and ensure the project development becomes more efficient and effective. These solutions are not major changes, they are utilising things we already do inefficiently within the time and giving them more structure and thought.

On an ending note, we were given the feedback as already mentioned that a lot of what we are doing focuses on ensuring the delivery of the project and not on the quality of the project. Firstly, I don’t think we have any controls there to monitor the quality but also I don’t think we can run before we can walk. I think our first priority has to be delivering on the project, as we are yet to fulfil a project brief completely, although last time was an attempt. Secondly, once we start actively completing the projects and delivering, we can then start to look at how to improve. Delivering a project and fulfilling the brief as a team, is surely the first objective here. Consequently, improving our communication, which has repeatedly been labelled as a huge weakness and was responsible for the failure of the last task, is the first step in delivering a project successfully. Once this has been achieved, we can plan how to deliver a successful project.

Online article references

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/05/28/successful-business-communication-it-starts-at-the-beginning/

http://www.ftpress.com/articles/article.aspx?p=2087653

 

 

How do you make a performing successful team within a business?

Does a team make itself into a team from the inside out or can you strategically build well performing team based on Belbin and Insights profile?

This is a question I’ve been pondering over recent days, how do teams form? When I was orginally employed by Newcastle University, I worked within a team of four interns. Individually, we were all very strong candidates and had huge strengths, but as a team, we just didn’t work. There was little commonality and due to our work patterns, we very rarely saw each other. It felt like we were just picked and pushed together and then expected to become a team. As katzenbach (2000) would have assesed us, we were merely a group of people within an organisation, firstly labelled a team and then expected to act like one.#

Consequently, the following year recruitment into our replacement roles, was changed. It was headed by a fantastic member of staff Marek, someone I have thoroughly enjoyed working with. I observed from the outside, the change from the candidates not being as individually strong, but there being a huge shift into team dynamics and learning. He selected not on the basis of the individual candidate but on the basis of how people communicated and worked together to complete a task within an assessment day. The second part of the recruitment was an interview which at the heart of it was reflecting on the task and the team dynamics. Consequently, whilst from the outside our replacement team, individually wasn’t as strong, as a unit they were and they worked much more cohesively together. Our team managed comparible achievements and our NU Apprentice Competition we developed and launched was fantastically successful but the performance came from a group of very strong individuals and not a collective team.

Within that team, I had my most difficulty. I was working alongside someone who was as equally a poor team player as me, at times. The two of us, both alpha females and ruthlessly ambitious, often let our competitive natures and inability to give up control, play out to the detriment of the team. This is the only occasion I can rebutt Bell (2003) and his argument that performance dependes on successful collective performance. In this instance, we managed to deliver just not as a functioning team.

As a recruiter, I asked Marek how he a team together. Especially one where the expection was of enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation. His response was  “we put a team together who we think will work well together and have complementary skills.” He goes went on to discuss that this is not only an individual assessment but a group assessment and that the practical aspect of the assessment day, enables him to see the roles candidates take, their communication, their ability to respect others and the teams performance. Which leads onto the idea that team formation is not so much about the individual but about the coming together of a unit.

I asked Marek what he felt were the key points of a successful team and how you can develop one within business…….

“But just off the top of my head, here are a few of my thoughts on teams and team learning:

  • ·         Communication –  in business almost everybody has to be able to communicate with others to achieve their objectives. Obviously the better your communication skills the more able you are: to get ‘buy in’ from other team members, avoid confusion etc
    ·         Being adaptable – at certain times people will have to take different roles in a team (whether this is done on a formal or informal basis). The better you are at adapting to different roles the better you will help your team to function effectively. For example in our team, people head up different projects, so for e.g.,  if everybody wanted to be a leader all the time, this would create conflict in the team, and other team duties wouldn’t be completed. Also, if you have a team of adaptable individuals you can react to situations that arise much more easily.
    ·         Working to each other’s strengths – in a good team, people will have complementary skills and abilities. Being able to work alongside each other will allow the team to gain full advantage of these skills
    ·         Motivating – being part of a good team can help motivate each other to push on to achieve greater things.
    ·         Being able to listen and take on other opinions – this is vitally important. At times, individuals will feel that they have the best idea and it’s much easier to complete a task by themselves than to get others involved. I’ve certainly felt this way in the past. However, to work effectively as a team you should encourage others to give their suggestions, as often people will have different ideas and solutions that could be much better. It’s also good to see the bigger picture and whilst a task might be easier to complete on an individual basis, it can damage the team if you do so. By involving the team, even if you all work on your solution, they will learn and develop their own skills, and crucially, they will feel that it’s part of a team effort and that keeps the sense of togetherness and team working going. “

In response to the above, I agree that this sounds like the ideal. But it makes it sound like a team is just an equation of key ingredients and that there is a set formula to enable a productive team. This outlook, I do not share. I don’t believe there is a recipe that spells out what a team should consist of, successfully functioning and performing teams create themselves and do what works for them.

 Katzenbach (2000:118) gives his definition of a team as a “small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Each part of this definition above, takes time to develop. The complementary skills requires awareness and learning from each other. The common purpose only develops once the team has buy in and the mutual accountability develops, conversely the common purpose stems for the achievement of performance goals. Team development is consequently, a very cyclical process. Such a common purpose doesn’t necessarily stem from performance goals and project briefs, real common purpose stems from the ethos of the team and a revolution within. It is a nod towards, “we want to be the best and complete this in the best way possible”.
Katzenback further expounds this by relating teams to “winning” which is suggestive of a competitive element. The teams I’ve worked best in, is when there has been a competitive element. Often I have began in a poorly performing team which stands in the shadows of teams that outperform. The process then becomes breaking down the team to analyse, rebuilding the team from within, recruiting into the team, building channels and processes that enhance productivity. This enables the team, communication and motivation through setting achieveable and measurable steps forward, engages the team into walking together in the same direction. Then some where along this process, the team bursts from any sort of restrictions it felt before and finally feels empowered.
Such a competitive element forces the team to analyse and ask itself the hard question; how is a team with similar resources and time, managing to achieve so much more than we are as a collective? Furthermore, what is being asked of us, isn’t impossible, there is an expectation we can do this and do this well. I’ve found initially within the process, the tendency is to blame others, to blame lack of resources, lack of funding, lack of man power, to blame anything but the team collective. I use the term “blame” loosely because within a team, blame can never be attributable to one person, which is what blame suggests. When I use blame in this case, I mean blaming the functioning of the team.
Katzenbach (2000: 118) , “the most successful teams shape their purposes in response to a demand or opportunity put in their path”. Successful businesses and indeed successful teams are shape shifters. They are able to respond to the changing market place and they haven’t conformed to rigid structures. They allocate resources on a need basis whilst considering the whole. This follows on from Marek’s point, that within a team people can take on a variety of roles at any one time. This is the eternal truth and success of any team. Hence I’m less likely to bow down to Belbins assumptions and labels, I also consider this is why I found the questions so difficult to answer. Each question and answer out of context or within a different context, I felt could have been applicable. When assessing all the Belbin roles, I felt frustrated in the fact, that I could say “I do them all”. I don’t embody them all at the same time but I respond fluidly to the team, meaning I take on a role when needed.
By assembling a group of individuals on the basis of labels all I can see is that you remain a group of individuals. Consequently, you can make a team more likely to become productive by assembling a certain type of people together, but “something” has to happen within to finally mould the team together into a unit. As Katzenback says himself “nobody but the team can make it happen”. (116) This was illustrated by one of the best professional partnerships, I’ve ever worked in. I worked with a fantastically brilliant businesswoman called Sophie. On the service, we couldn’t be more different and we are as equally as firey, ambitious and you wouldn’t think we’d be able to work alongside each other. However, bizarrely, in time we became a dynamo duo who brought out the best in each other. Our strengths were able to shine and the other was able to compensate for the others weakness. But this partnership didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of hard work, compromise, getting to know each other and sharing a common purpose and respect for each other. But if we’d simply completed a Belbin questionnaire, on face value, you would not have put us in the same team, as two girls who want to fiercely lead.
So what transformational “something”, will take a team from one that discusses and delegates to one that has a team purpose above the task, discusses and does real collective work together which everyone feels mutually accountable? The difference between a team and a working group.
Katzenbach (2000) puts forwards several necessity elements that help this process…..
  • Collective and individually shared purpose above the task at hand.
  • Specific performance goals.
  • Clear communication and constructive conflict and challenging.
  • Strategic analyse of how the team can best achieve its objectives via using its people.
  • Feedback, recognition and rewards.
  • A compelling context with an established urgency.

I can witness the above happened within my duo working team including Sophie. However, what Sophie and I had from very early on, is that we both are thick skinned and invite feedback, There was an ethos of (often brutal) honesty but it was always contructive. We learnt from each other, from what we liked about each other, to what really annoyed us, to if we felt the other handled a situation badly, to our successes together. But instead of dropping negative bombshells, we supported each other and constantly looked for a path a head together.

Interestingly, Sophie’s manner and personality, the way she communicates can be very intimidating and of deteriment to the team. Her need to always communicate her feelings. This is something we worked on together for the benefit of our wider team, so she could still communicate but in a more motivating and constructive manner, without it coming across as emotional overloading. Where as my manner and personality, was not at fault. I’m a people person and when engaging with people, i can get people onside and my strong points lie in mediation. However, sometimes the things I practically do and my tendency to do things and then try and involve the team after the fact, sometimes without consultation, alienates team members. This is something Sophie helped me work on, understanding not only the need to be able to lead the team and be strategic but how to get the team behind you and involved.

All of these team lessons are vital, but their applicability within my current business team is very limited. The secret to our team is the ability to engage, enable and then empower. But this must come from within.