Teams are becoming more and more common and important. As the traditional, hierarchical school of leadership diminishes in significance, a new focus on networked team leadership is emerging to take its place. Leaders are finding themselves members of all kinds of teams, including virtual teams, autonomous teams, cross-functional teams, and action-learning teams.
Many of today’s leaders face a dilemma: as the need to build effective teams is increasing, the time available to build these teams is often decreasing. A common challenge faced by today’s leaders is the necessity of building teams in an environment of rapid change with limited resources. The process of re-engineering and streamlining, when coupled with increased demand for services, has led to a situation in which most leaders have more work to do and fewer staff members to help them do it.
Research involving thousands of participants has shown how focused feedback and follow-up can increase leadership and customer service effectiveness (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, and Beckhard, 1996). A parallel approach to team building has been shown to help leaders build teamwork without wasting time. While the approach described sounds simple, it will not be easy. It will require that team members have the courage to ask for input and suggestions regularly and the discipline to develop a behavioral change strategy to follow up, and to “stick with it.”
To implement the our team-building process successfully, the leader (or external coach) will need to assume the role of coach or facilitator and fight the urge to be the “boss” of the project. Greater improvement in teamwork will generally occur if the team members develop their own behavioral change strategy rather than if the leader develops the strategy and imposes it on the team. This process should not be implemented if the leader has the present intention of firing or removing a team member.
Here's a challenge to you as a team leader. Try it! The “downside” is very low. The process takes little time and the first mini-survey will quickly show whether progress is being made. The “upside” can be very high. As effective teamwork becomes more and more important, the brief amount of time that you invest in this process may produce a great return for your team and an even greater return for you organization.
Life is good.
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