Team Development for EQ Projects
Unleashing Human Power
The basic mindset behind developing a team is that everyone has skills and perspectives valuable for the group's work. Without such a mind set, all procedures tend to be conducted without sincerity and thereby lead in the opposite direction: lack of trust and disrespect between the team members. That is the exact opposite of succesfully developing a team.
The aim for developing a team, or rather its group culture, is to unleash the human power within the group. What can we do to allow everyone to contribute to the team at his best ability? Since all humans are unique, there are billions of possible answers. Only one thing can we be truly sure of: respect for and gentleness with other person's feelings are crucial when trying to make people open up to their internal powers.
Forming a Team
Taking it to the extreme, you can form a functional team out of any persons as long as you have two commonalities: they share a similar goal and they are eager to listen to each other. With that assumption in mind, form a team with as much diversity as possible. Have the courage to invite persons different to you and face your own prejudices and judgement of others, and you will get a group with a high level of complexity. As the world is complex, you need just that complexity, as other persons' views are necessary to be able to navigate in today's society. The fact your team also becomes positive role models to others in a world of intolerance is just a bonus.
The Important Question
Are the team members there only to execute a project as experts on the different parts of the project, or are they there also to learn, and learn from each other? If the answer to the question is yes, the way of organizing the team might be somewhat different from the traditional where you "let the best man get the job". If learning is one of the goals for the team, then the "best man" in each discipline will turn into a mentor for someone who wishes to learn new skills in that area. By mentoring one another, there are great opportunities for building strong relationships and skills. At the same time, mistakes are counted for what they really are, steps on the way to excellence instead of proof of incompetence. Finally, the pro-learning attitude will flow through the whole organization and inspire others to take responsibility for their own learning.
It is easy to believe that the learning organization takes more time than the executive one, and it is probably true -- during the first project. But if the group expects to continue their work together there are vast advantages of understanding the different roles in an organization, advantages that will show in next project.
Roles in a Team
Any team is actually two teams: one is the informal team of different personalities and the other is the formal team of positions like manager, accountant etc. Depending on the self-understanding of those involved, it can be really fruitful to have a chat when the team members are encouraged to introduce themselves and their personality type. (For more on personality exploration, visit our links)
The kind of project will decide the needs for positions, but beware of constructing a traditional beauraucracy just to get accountability from others. As the project runs along, those who have positions with little or nothing to do will loose interest and cause unnecessary disturbance. Instead, try to keep the team members as equal as possible, electing people to the most necessary positions only, and let the others stand by for needs that might come up. In the meanwhile, let everyone participate in decision making, unless it's about details. As you can understand from this, there is a point in keeping the team small.
As times goes by, the team will develop to a group of individuals well aware of how the group functions and the moves will be synchronised. To get to that point earlier, you can together decide on ground rules for how the team is supposed to work, interact with each other and those who are affected by it's work. It can be simple rules like the agenda will be presented ten minutes after the meeting starts, or more sophisticated, in all written communication to parents and kids there will be a note inviting people to contact the team on any reason. The points in the rules will probably be changed during the times, but still they have an important role by giving attention to the team's moral and ethics, topics that might be difficult to bring up without a little help.
It All Comes Down to Communication
All teams experience ups and downs, and probably, if you could measure how the quality of the communication between the team members was before and under those periods, you would probably see a clear connection. Each team member has his or her ambitions, goals and focus, and when something is perceived as a threat to them, trouble is coming around the corner. By doing your very best to secure a open and honest communication, e.g., by well run meetings and time for personal chats, these threats can be found not to be just that, or if they really are, they can be dealt with in a effective way. Because that is the other important thing for a team with ambitions: how to disagree in a way so that those involved can continue to work together, without anyone feeling overrun.
Dealing with Potential Conflicts
The most important thing about dealing with potential conflicts is to keep the focus away from the opponents. The conflict must never be allowed to be a question of their qualities or track record. As soon as the conflict is about persons it easily becomes fuelled by emotions like pride and jealousy. Focus on the issue and evaluate how make the best decision to support the vision and goal, because that is something both parts ought to pay respect. If they don't there is always the final solution to exclude them: they are not doing their job. But it is really the final solution and should never be a need for. Instead, make sure that everyone is given the opportunity to explain their point of view, and even more important, be listened to. There is a reason we have twice as many ears than mouths. Personal feedback is one way to this.
Feedback to Your Friend and Foe
Personal evaluation has one single goal: to improve the relationship between those involved. When the team has a decided to have a session of feedback, it's entering a zone where care and gentleness are mixed with honesty. Any act intending to hurt is banned and will immediately hurt the team for a long time - the spell of trust is broken. Instead everyone present should have the goal to contribute to a better social climate. It doesn't mean that everyone must be a best pal, but that everybody should search oneself and each other to find out the different roles played in the relationships, good or bad. What is my responsibility in this relationship? Which part have I contributed to? The way to this is to give each other feedback. Once again, the goal is to improve the relationship, and if someone is to upset to be able to act in such a way, wait with giving the feedback until the pressure has lowered.
A feedback session can be done two and two or together in a group. The first way is safer if you don't like anyone to hear you giving and receiving negative feedback. The group session can make people more gentle, but sometimes to the extent that the honesty gets lost. If you choose the group session, let one person receive feedback from everyone else, one at the time, before moving to next.
Here are some guidelines to how to give good feedback:
First, try to understand the motive. Then the action might seem reasonable.
Expect people to do things out of good reasons. If that is impossible, you have a great responsibility to bring the subject to a discussion to find out.
Give feedback on motives and actions, not a person's identity nor background (focus on what someone did, not who s/he is).
Give feedback on recent things, in other words, give feedback close to a situation. Don't bring up old sins, it will probably lead to an arguing on who remembers the situation best.
Outside formal feedback sessions: give positive feedback in front of others but bad in privacy.
Be accurate by giving examples. By not doing so you open up for discussions.
When giving feedback on behavioural patterns it is effective to use this form: When you ___, I feel and act like this. What could we do about that? It is a way to share the responsibility for the results.
Receive feedback without trying to argue against the giver. It is his or her feelings and experiences, subjective but real and there is nothing good in telling them they are wrong. If there is time after you have listened, you can explain why you did like you did.
To make people feel good when given feedback, you can use this method: Share your perceptions about what they are doing well, and the importance of what they are doing. Then share what you believe is in the way of her/him being most effective -- hold a high expectation that this person is capable of unsurpassed excellence. Your job in giving feedback is to help her/him think of the future and ways to be more effective. Use words that indicate a commitment to practising and learning. Make suggestions and offer possibilities and questions. The result should be an exciting discussion of unleashing capacity and getting results -- which will leave you both eager for the next discussion.
Sometimes you work with a person who isn't really fitting in to the group by some reason. You know by the everyday conversations in the team that he or she probably will receive a lot of negative feedback. At such an occasion in can be effective to co-ordinate the feedback so that everyone doesn't tell the same improvable things over and over again. The goal for giving feedback is to make people improve and grow and that wont happen by giving them a feeling of being useless. It is not about being dishonest; it is about understanding the human psyche. Everyone must be given a chance to leave the session with a sense of hope.
Information Is the Raw Material of All Projects
To make a team flexible and its team members independent, information has to be accessible and easy to find. As a general rule, let everyone in the team get as much information as they think they need. It comes down to a question of trust, and also, to be able to take responsibility, you need to know how things work. When the project has worked for a period of time it is wise to design an information structure that optimise the flow of information. What is the natural flow through the system? Are there any needs still unsatisfied? Where does the information finally end and what is the documentation routine? Certainly there are more specific questions to each unique organisation, and all needs an answer.
There are many stakeholder who need information -- parents, kids, neighbours and business partners also have a need to know what is going on, especially if you are relying on their support to run your activities. It might be useful to assign an Information Officer to keep extra focus on this. But don't overdo it, your main focus is the internal activities, but if you on a regular basis share a well written letter to acknowledge those who support you in different ways, you will gain a goodwill worth a lot.
Prepare Their Brains
Lastly there is the communication to those attending your activities. Before these meetings, people need prepare the brain for what's coming. In this case it can be to give out a plan for the next series of meetings with some hints to the topic. If possible, try to tell them the focus without loosing the power of surprise. Curiosity is a great friend to all learning.