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The Need for Team ' Champions'

Teamwork – The Need for Team Champions

It has been a real frustration of mine over the years that many organisations do not take teamwork seriously enough. Some organisations have ‘Teamwork’ as one of their key values and proudly emblazoned this on office walls and corporate literature. However, they then sit back and do very little to ensure that all their team managers, supervisors, leaders, and team members are knowledgeable and skilled in ensuring that teamwork is effective and productive.

In many organisations, the culture drives a focus on task delivery and the other key aspects of effective leadership such as process and people can take ‘a back seat’ with the result that important processes such as teamwork are either forgotten or not even recognised. It’s as if they think teamwork will just happen naturally or that their managers know exactly how to create and sustain high performance teams. As a team manager, I have been in situations where such is the drive to get tasks completed that the desire to focus on teamwork and people ‘falls off’ the ‘hamster wheel’ of corporate activity. And yet teamwork is needed to get the tasks done effectively!

In this short blog I’d like to propose that developing team effectiveness can be achieved through a joint approach between the team manager and a designated team ‘champion’ and this can be achieved alongside the necessary task focus that drives many organisations and perhaps get people off the ‘hamster wheel’ and on to the ‘path of productivity’ and success.

Many team managers are under intense pressure. I recently read a report by the Gartner organisation that stated that ‘58% of sales managers struggle to complete all assigned tasks’. These managers may be now managing teams that are even more remote than they have been previously, and the teams may be larger with more members which brings on even more time pressures and task challenges. Add in the constant pressure on the delivery of outputs and a possible lack of resources available to develop the team, this will contribute to the additional workload that can affect the manager’s ability to focus on effective teamwork. It is also highly likely that the line manager has not been trained in effective teamwork as many leadership courses are ‘light’ on the teamwork aspect. In addition, it may also be that the team manager’s role may have increasing project and customer work which takes them 'away' from the actual team and you can then have a situation where the team could be left to ‘fend for themselves’ in many aspects.

A good team manager will delegate appropriate tasks and projects and make sure these projects fit with the strengths of the individual team members and that they do not conflict with their key individual roles and responsibilities. The good team manager may also ensure that team members work together on projects where appropriate, so ‘teamwork within the team’ is encouraged. One particularly important delegated role that has worked well in teams is that of the ‘team development champion’. This is an important role which works with the team manager to ensure that all elements of team development are a key development priority and are developed so that the team is operating at their maximum effectiveness and at a high-performance level. There are several key advantages to this role being created:

1. It keeps team development and performance on the team’s agenda.

2. It allows the team manager to ensure balance between their own key managerial responsibilities.

3. It allows the team manager to develop their own coaching and mentoring skills.

4. The ‘team champion’ can grow and develop skills in the areas of team development, coaching, training, and facilitation and as such can be an important ‘stepping-stone’ towards future team manager positions.

5. There is a ‘team development’ voice within the team members group.

6. Team development towards high team performance can be achieved quicker.

7. If ‘Teamwork’ is one of the organisation’s values, then it demonstrates that the team manager and the team are ‘living’ that value.

As in any delegated task situation the amount of time a team champion can spend in this specific development task should be agreed and contracted. I have experienced new team champions take on the role with great enthusiasm and let their key and core responsibilities suffer as a result so great care must be taken to ensure the correct balance.

The other key area that needs to be addressed is that the ‘team champion’ will need to be trained effectively in the key aspects of team development because it is almost certain that the ‘team champion’s’ line manager will not the have the time and probably not have the experience or expertise in order to coach and mentor the team champion in all aspects of team development. This training should be taken on via the company’s L&D or Training Team and in the absence of such a dedicated resource then external support should be sought.

The key areas of a team that the champion will need to be trained will include:

· Definitions and Types of Team and their place on the team Performance Curve.

· The Key Stages of Team Development from Forming through to Performing.

· Accelerator processes such as PARTNERS™ to embed the team basics such as purpose, goal setting, contracting and stakeholder management.

· Personality, Strengths and Resilience profiles of team members to ensure clarity and understanding of behavioural style preferences, where people will be best placed for projects and how team members' well being can be supported.

· Team Decision Making and Problem-Solving techniques.

· Effective Team Meetings and Review processes.

· How to prevent and manage conflict within the team.

· Reward and Recognition processes that keep motivation, focus and performance high.

- Stakeholder Engagement.

All in all, the focus on any development should be on ensuring the basics of team development are learned and embedded and an action plan should be agreed with the team champion’s line manager. In this respect this must be a real partnership with the line manager supporting the team champion in a coaching capacity. This is most definitely not a situation for a team manager to simply abdicate responsibility to a team champion!

With the challenge of ensuring that team development is kept to the forefront of an organisation’s capability plan (and especially if ‘teamwork’ is a key value!) the creation of a ‘team champion’ for each and every true team is one strategy that an organisation should strongly consider.

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