Spring is the season of renewal. As we enjoy the transformation of nature and eventual warmer weather, let’s take the month of April to explore some ideas that can help transform ourselves and our work.
Think about the last time you were the leader of a team. It could be within your department at work, on a research project at school, or playing basketball at the gym. Now let’s take a step back. Have you considered whether that team was a team in the first place? What’s the big deal—after all, any number of people working toward a common goal is a team, right?
I’m sorry to say; you might’ve been running a group. Why are we getting technical about this one word? Because groups can run very differently than teams, and often much less efficiently. Yikes! Who would want to play on a basketball group when you could play on a basketball team?
Leaders spend considerable time trying to figure out how to form cohesive teams, because when done right, the results are exponential.
To help you tell the difference, let’s look at these definitions:
Groups are tightly controlled systems of people. Members have unique resources or abilities but they are not used for the good of the team. Rather, each person stays in their own lane, and the manager holds each person responsible for their sole contribution. Everyone in the group has a very similar task to complete, and their individual results are then pooled together at the end by the manager.
Teams, on the other hand, are far more interconnected. Members rely on the talents and resources of their cohorts to work toward a shared goal. Although one person may be named Manager, the main purpose of their leadership is to provide team members with what they need to succeed and to remove the obstacles that hold them back. In fact, the role of the leader may rotate depending on expertise and the project at hand. Each person works on what they know best, and it’s up to each of them to report their progress to the greater organization.
Let’s take a look at an example*:
Omar is the sales manager of employees Melanie, Carlos, and Amy at IGS Corp. Melanie excels at direct client communications, Carlos at research, and Amy at creating persuasive sales tools. But none of these skills are put to use—Omar expects them to perform the same task regardless: reach their sales quota.
All the potential of a great team is here. But instead of pursuing a better-coordinated operation, Omar simply troubleshoots when someone is struggling. He then totals each employee’s performance based on their individual sales and reports below average results to his supervisor. Is there any sign of working together here? Is this really a “sales team” after all?
A few years later, Omar leaves IGS Corp. and Kumari, the new manager, steps in. Amy, Melanie, and Carlos
haven’t left, but the team looks very different than it did before. Amy is now creating standard online and print materials for every salesperson to use. Carlos investigates prospective clients by analyzing data from current clients. Melanie trains Carlos and Amy in sales and communication tactics.
What happened in the second scenario? By taking some simple steps, Kumari could allow each team member to lead what they do best and nothing more. Every member plays off of one another’s abilities or resources and is held mutually accountable for their work (to each other and Kumari). Kumari uses her position as supervisor to get the team the technology and the connections they need to go above and beyond.
This transformation didn’t happen overnight; Kumari had to make some difficult decisions when executing her new strategy. It was long and difficult work rebuilding the organization, but the results were more than worth it. Kumari’s team wins sales awards year after year, and her department has the reputation of a healthy work environment with high retention. Now that sounds like success, in more ways than one!
Let’s revisit the real-life situation you thought about at the beginning.
Would you consider that organization a group or a team? What elements of Kumari’s team could you see on your team? How about Omar’s?
Most of the time, creating a team from a group isn’t a fairy tale process. As a leader, you may have to give up some of your authority, recognizing that your team members will have more control over the result. It’s challenging to figure out how to restructure—no two teams are alike. But over time, you’ll be able to discover the unique talents on your team and create a structure around them.
You and your team can take steps toward better cohesion and performance with information in my e-book Leading Teams That Get Results. I’ll continue to expand on the ideas in the e-book through my blog.
In this series, I’ll show how to create an environment for high-performing teams; how to move past the restraints of a group and the challenges of transformation toward a happier, more efficient dream team. Stay with
me for six weeks as we walk through my proven S.U.C.C.E.S.S method for reaching your leadership potential.
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*IGS Corp. and all names are purely fictional. Any resemblance to people, situations, or businesses you know is coincidental.[Update: I’m playing with a new tool. Check out this animated video on the IGS YouTube Channel. I expect to use multimedia in my videos in the future.]