Be honest. Who doesn’t quietly cringe at the prospect of team-building exercises?
Well, relax. Because although this post – our second on the essential tools and skills every manager requires – focuses on creating a more cohesive team, you’ll be relieved to know there’s not a single trust activity or obstacle course in sight. Rather, this is all about effective communication and collaboration – clarifying the core, everyday activities and behaviours which ensure your team is all playing on the same side. (Remember that analogy about the soccer team? We’ll be using it a lot.) After all, “Working effectively together is the key to achieving the best results with the least amount of effort,” notes PEPworldwide managing director Kathryn Anda. No surprises there.
Working effectively together is the key to achieving the best results with the least amount of effort.
So if effective team communication and collaboration constitute the next key components of our toolkit, how do we go about building these behaviours within our workplace? Well, let’s revisit that soccer team analogy once again (we did warn you). We’re sure you’d agree that it’s customary for every soccer team to hold at least one practice session a week, with every team member expected to attend and contribute. In the context of the workplace, this regular soccer practice takes the form of a weekly team meeting. “You wouldn’t consider playing a match without some form of team practice beforehand,” explains Anda. “Managers need to ensure their weekly team meetings are equally non-negotiable.”
Now, we’ve observed in the past that meetings can quickly become more of a hindrance than a help if they’re not handled carefully. So we’ve put together a few pointers to ensure that this particular collaboration and communication tool is in perfect working order for you:
A Monday morning is the ideal time to kick off a weekly confab. The later you leave it, the more likely it is that issues will arise to sabotage or even scuttle your session altogether. And don’t get hung up on physical attendance, either. “People complain that it’s too hard to bring everyone together,” observes Anda. “Don’t use that as an excuse to reschedule. New ways of working easily enable people to participate without being physically present.”
In other words, don’t turn up to practice without your boots. “Ideally, an agenda for your meeting should be distributed beforehand,” says Anda. “And every team member should bring their own weekly plan, including details of what their week holds, where they might need assistance or what ‘road blocks’ might prevent them from achieving what they need to. This way every person is encouraged both to plan their week ahead and also to actively participate in the meeting.”
This is more about winning next week’s game than analysing last week’s plays, successful or not. You may recall this point from our previous post – and we’re reiterating it now because, frankly, we can’t emphasise it enough. “These meetings must be future-focused, fast-paced and action-oriented,” explains Anda. “They’re about assessing where everyone’s at and how everyone intends to make progress. Your meeting should address all these questions: Is everyone on track? What challenges may arise? Who needs extra help or resources?”
There’s no escaping off-the-pitch admin. Your weekly meeting is therefore a great opportunity to communicate any minor matters to your team, says Anda. “Instead of sending twenty emails, batch together all the information that’s not urgent but still important, and communicate it all in one hit.”
Ok, there’s no need for an actual team huddle and hurrah (although if everyone’s in the moment, by all means high-five and whoop away). But there’s obvious value in spending the last five minutes giving a shout-out to any star performers or acknowledging any worthwhile wins. And while everyone’s feeling enthusiastic, take the opportunity to ask for suggestions on what could be done better. This sort of question is often better posed in a positive context rather than in the wake of a washout.
Ultimately, says Anda, “Your team is one of your most significant resources as a manager. Surely it makes sense to ensure everyone is working together as effectively as possible?” Quite. And one quick, focused team meeting a week provides a fast track to efficiency. “It minimises distractions, crises and reactive work because it encourages everyone to be proactive and focused on moving forward,” adds Anda. “Most importantly, it builds those core behaviours of effective collaboration and communication.” In other words – and stand by for that soccer analogy one last time – it helps to create a team that’s match-ready. And that’s a pretty valuable tool to keep in your kit.
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