I have had numerous conversations with team managers over the last few months and whilst some have been really positive in terms of what they are doing to lead and develop their teams, many conversations have actually saddened and frustrated me. The reasons for this are that some managers are simply 'sticking their heads in the sand' and not perhaps living up to the reality that their teams do need further development and support, whilst others do realise that they and their teams need support but are the proverbial 'rabbits caught in the headlights' and are fearful of pushing back to senior management who simply drive task after task after task.
I have compiled an edited summary of the conversations that I have had with many managers who have tended to be on the, let's call it, 'I see no reason to change' side of the argument. This is very much a generic conversation but you'll get the idea and the themes that are emerging.
Me: How well is your team doing at present?
Manager: We're OK - we are very busy with not a minute to spare, but I think we'll hit, or get close to our targets. It's a tough environment out there you know.
Me: What are the implications for you and the team if you don't achieve the team targets?
Manager: At this time, it is difficult to predict give the uncertainty that we are experiencing as a company. I won't feel great if we don't hit the targets and the pressure on me and the team will increase markedly.
Me: Just how much pressure do you and the team feel at present to perform?
Manager: Huge pressure but if we are seen to be working hard we should hopefully get the results that we need and keep senior management off our backs.
Me: You say 'hopefully'. How confident are you in your plan to achieve the goals and targets?
Manager: The plan is there we just need to deliver it. I'm sure the results will come in.
Me: What processes do you have in place to develop the performance of your team to ensure they are working to their maximum potential?
Manager: As I said we have a business plan and everyone has their own individual plan outlining the actions they have to take to deliver their own objectives.
Me: So is this just a case of a bunch of individuals working on their own individual plans or is this really a team effort where everyone pulls together to support one another?
Manager: We have regular meetings , once a month or so, where we have an update on our progress as a team and how each of the team are doing individually.
Me: How supportive and challenging are these meetings in terms of ensuring that everyone is performing to the best of their ability?
Manager: The meetings are update meetings. Any performance shortfalls whilst obviously highlighted in the meeting are dealt with on a 1:1 with myself.
Me: So, it appears, within your meetings, there is little done on celebrating and fully understanding success as well as problem solving to assist individuals to have adapted actions plans to overcome any challenges they are encountering? Are you using the team to use the positive power of peer support and challenge.
Manager: We do celebrate and highlight the successes but we could do more to fully share why these successes are occurring. Time is the issue though. In terms of the underperformance, that's my job as a manager to work with those individuals who are struggling. I am tasked to manage their performance not for the overall team to do it.
Me: OK. I note that your organisation has 'teamwork' as one of its key values. What is done to support your development as a team so that both you and the team have all the necessary skills and processes needed in order to truly be a high performance team?
Manager: Very little, We do teambuilding exercises at our twice yearly conferences. There is an expectation that we are all experienced managers so we know how best to lead our teams effectively.
Me: What do you and the team learn from these teambuilding exercises that you do at conference?
Manager: That we simply need to communicate more within the team. It can always be improved. The exercises are fun though. I particularly like 'the haka'. Anyway, the bar is the best place for the team to 'bond'!
Me: OK so it does sound like that apart from doing teambuilding exercises (which sounds more like corporate entertainment) there is not much support in the way of assisting the you and team to develop your knowledge of team dynamics and processes?
Manager: Nothing structured like training courses if that's what you mean. I've had some team leadership training which covered that 'storming' model and I learned a lot from my previous manager in relation to how he ran the team. Lack of budget is a big challenge.
Me: OK that's a start. Have you done any work on the 'Performance Curve', team motivation models such as 'Diamond-Motivation' and team process models such as 'PARTNERS'?
Manager: I'm not familiar with these. I know about 'storming, forming' etc.
Me: What does your Team Charter look like?
Manager: We don't have a formal Team Charter as such although we have talked about how best we should be working together. There's nothing written down though.
Me: What about a specific Team Development Plan?
Manager: There's not a team development plan as such although we all have individual development plans.
Me: Are these individual development plans 'living' in that they are reviewed routinely and updated accordingly?
Manager: If I'm honest they are trotted out at the year end review and the whole process does appear to be a 'tick box exercise'.
I won't go on any longer (as I could!) but the above is how the conversation goes with many of the managers I talk to. Targets are given, plans are created and the team dives into task, task, task. Very little support is given to the development of the team and the development of team leadership skills of the team manager. Too many assumptions are made about the team leadership capabilities of managers and as such many managers operate on 'gut instinct', a smattering of team leadership learning, and from their own experience of what they believe to be true team leadership. Despite many organisations having teamwork as a core value and having it within their competency frameworks, they do very little to develop the organisations capability in this area and allocate very little budget, if any, to true team development. The odd teambuilding event in the guise of corporate entertainment won't cut it!
If you would like to know more about our 'Resilient Partners' team development programme then simply message me through LinkedIn or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Alternatively call me on ++ 44 (0) 776 416 8989