How to Improve Your Team

Posted on May 31, 2010

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Team Leadership, photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

“There is always something that can be improved, as long as we think creatively.” To many, such a statement may be deemed as easier said than done. To many, try as we might, everything seem to be well in place, and there really do not seem to be any room for improvement.

With regards to this problem, a more appropriate question to ask ourselves, rather than “What else may I improve?” is “Am I getting ALL the results I hope for my team to achieve? If not, why not? Or specifically, what is holding my team back?” This way of asking questions instantly changes our thoughts from the problem frame to the solution frame, and we immediately find ourselves less stuck and more able to find ways for our team to improve.

For practically all of the time, the answer to the question “Am I getting ALL the results I hope for my team to achieve?” should be a resounding “no”. If it’s a “yes”, it signals that its time to move on to set larger goals instead of being limited to within our comfort zone. This leads to the next question, “Why not?” Typically, upon analysis, areas of improvement may be derived from the following four categories:

Structure

This refers to the chain of command, the allocation of tasks. It may be seem as the skeleton, the support and scaffolding that hold the team’s integrity. It concerns with the specific roles played by each team member, and how each role integrates into the larger picture. Problems of structure may occur in the form of unequal distribution of workload, overlapping of responsibilities (which thereby create no responsibility), roles that do not integrate, and roles that are ill defined.

System

This refers to the processes and the operation procedures of the team. In the analogy of a body, this would be the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the nervous system etc. Systems concerns with the daily and long term operations of the team, and this would be the processes which define what the team does. For instance, the processes of a customer support team would be the specific steps of receiving feedback, responding to feedback, taking the appropriate action on the feedback etc. Problems of system may be ascertained by looking at how the system may not be at its most efficient. Are there better ways to do things? Are there faster way to do things? Are there more effective ways to do things? Have there been any complaints? How may these shortcomings be improved?

Skills

This refers to the collective skill set of the team and of each individual member. The skills may be in terms of the content of work, such as the knowledge of each member in their particular field, or their ability to achieve what they are in charge of. It may also be in terms of the context of the workplace, such as the level of teamwork, the maturity of the team, the cohesiveness and the leadership. Problems here could possibly include dysfunctional team relationship, poor conflict resolution, shortage of a specific industry related skill.

Culture

This refers to the underlying environment of the workplace. Is the culture conducive for peak performance? Is the culture supportive towards failure? Is it condemning towards failure? Is it unfair towards new members? Is it a culture of competition or cooperation? Is the culture too laid back? Such are questions that may inspire ideas for cultural improvement.

Evidently, with some imagination and proactivity, a leader may constantly take his team to newer heights in countless numbers of ways, and it is such teams that constantly deliver standards, regardless of their environment.

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