Is Your Team Successful?

One of the most frequently asked questions that I got during my training days of “New to Management” was around how do, as the manager, know if my team is successful or not? Great question for managers to ask. I used to think that I had a good team that was delivering their on the objectives in a timely and cost efficient manner was a very good indicator of how well things were going. Sounds good, but there is so much more. No one every really likes to answer a question with a question, but I wanted to use the complete class to brainstorm what a successful team could look like. Off goes the question… “what is your view of a success team?” Here is what followed..

  • A team that works together to accomplish whatever is set in front of them.
  • A team that works whatever hours are necessary to accomplish their goals.
  • Hitting their numbers, pushing product and doing a quality job.
  • The team gets along.
  • Someone in the team sees a problem and the team handles it.
  • Each member of the team is pulling their own weight.
  • Team is not afraid of failure, as they can accomplish anything they set their mind to it.
  • I as the manager, do not have to be “too” involved. The team understands that they are empowered.
  • Work gets done, on-time and within budget.
  • The team helps each other out.

These all sound pretty good, right? I can remember in my early days as a manager thinking if my team was to accomplish these or a subset of them, I felt pretty good. I used to hear from my management that my team was the best one of all of the teams in the department. That was not enough, as upper management to me, is not there daily or in the trenches when work is getting done.  As I gained more experience with managing teams, I started to really look underneath the surface and see how the team was really working together. Asking myself, how does the team accomplish the work that is set out in front of them? What is the overall commitment level of each and every team member? Do they really work together? What motivates the team members to do new and interesting stuff (innovation)? I started to develop my own scorecard for success of the teams that I led.

  • Getting the work done in a timely and cost effective manner – this still is the overall measure of success. That never changes as this is the most visible to the complete department. Getting your work done. If you don’t you won’t be around much.
  • Gauging the overall free flow of ideas and information – having great discussions about how to improve, how to do stuff better, or what is really happening. Having a team that shares the good, bad and ugly when it comes to team self reflection. Doing this in a constructive and not threatening manner. Working the problem rather than focusing on the individual.  The discussions were pretty lively and listening to them build on each other’s thoughts, made me see that a complete diverse team is better than a set of individual’s. Where I worked we used to do a yearly plan for the upcoming year. I used to include my complete team in this exercise. Set up some basic assumptions (budget and rev 0 goals) and what the team work together to set the plan together. The overall ownership of that plan was strong among the team. I usually had to point out that we must not try to do too much, we realize that year over year stuff happens, we must be flexible.
  • Balanced workload – for all team members. It is an easy thing to say, but in practice very difficult to manage. Here is where the manager really has to know what is going on with each individual on the team. Is there too much work being loaded up on all, too much on a few or not enough on some. The team members want to do a good job, they really want to receive praise and better raises and doing more work than the others seems the easiest way to demonstrate worth. Not good for the team.
  • True development plans in place for everyone. “True” development plans require much work from the individual team member and the manager. The team member needs to be honest in what they want to do, how they do it and what do they want to be when they grow up. What is their passion? The manager than becomes the coach and helps to develop a plan that works for the individual and the team. Sometimes the individual’s passion is not within the team overall direction. The manager has to make sure to balance and do the best in every situation. I have had to help get new positions for my team members to insure that the best of the employee, team, department and company were winning.

Some of these items can be measured by metrics, but most of them are more on how you know the team is doing. Spending time with the team in different ways. Being an observer during meetings – rather than talking 100%. Facilitator during planning meetings – rather than telling what will get done. Walking around the office, listening to the team working together – rather than sitting in your office. Asking questions and listening to the answers – rather than assuming you know what is happening. It is easy to take control as the manager.. You may even think that is why you are the manager. Observe, listen and act when necessary – that is truly what your team wants.

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