How to improve team effectiveness?
Much research has been done on the topic of team effectiveness and most of the suggestions are valuable. Google has a list of five key elements they consider essential for improving team effectiveness. They are:
1. Psychological safety
3. Structure and Clarity
There is an accepted wisdom in organizational psychology that says: what matters most is how a team works together and less about who is on the team. Managers who focus on implementing key elements one and three really benefit from having an effective team.
Psychological safety is when team members feel safe and confident to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. When team members feel safe, they are able to performÂ their best, since they are not afraid of being judged. The best ideas and work comes from trial and error. It is not possible to predict outcomes, and so if team members are willing to try and take risks the best will happen. Additionally, when team members feel safe, they are comfortable to question and poke holes into their teammates assumptions and ideas. When that occurs the ideas are further developed until they have a good chance of succeeding. And if after the process, some ideas do not have a good chance of succeeding, those ideas are dropped. Obviously, there are no guarantees about which ideas will succeed but better worked out ones stand a better chance than those less worked out.
Structure and clarity is when team members have clearly defined roles and understand them. The right team member is in the right role based on their personality, skills and experience. Additionally, team members have a clear strategy and goals to achieve the overall organizational mission. And the reason it is so important to have a clear strategy and goals and why it works is as follows: team members must understand what the organization is trying to accomplish in order to align their work and efforts to the overall mission. Team members must have a strategy of how they are going to, in their own way, help achieve the organization's mission. And the specifics details of how they will get the strategy done: the what they will get done, the when they will get it done and the how they will measure whether they were successful. Unless team members are very clear on all the aspects of: mission, strategy and goals it makes it very challenging for them to achieve the desired organizational results.
A well known framework that many technology companies use to ensure the strategy is achieved is called objectives and key results. The basic idea is to have an objective and at least three ways in which the objectives can be measured. So that at the end of the desired time frame for achieving the objective team members can very clearly, back and white, know and say whether the objective was successful or not.
Having an effective team is the difference between high performing organizations and not high performing organizations. Managers who take the time to focus on team effectiveness benefit greatly and ensure organizational growth.
We talk a lot about how managers need to create objectives and coach their team members. But what tools do managers have at their disposal when coaching their team members? What can managers do to ensure that the objectives get done?
There are two main reasons why team members fail to achieve their objectives once they fully comprehend and have accepted the objectives:
1. Lack of motivation
2. Lack of skill sets
Either they lack the motivation and willingness to get the objectives done. Or they lack the skill sets and the knowhow of how to get the objectives done.
Managers need to understand what motivates their team members and should use that knowledge to ensure that the objectives get done. Beyond financial motivation most team members are motivated by:
1. Quality - being an expert in a specific area
2. Quantity - achieving as much as they can
When managers assign objectives to their team members they need to ensure that the objectives also advance the team member's motivational factor and drive. Matching the right objective with the right team member makes all the difference between objectives getting done and objectives not getting done.
Managers also need to have a good understanding of their team members skill sets and use that knowledge to get the objectives done. Managers should use the objectives as a learning opportunity for their team members and:
1. Pair a more knowledgeable team member with a less knowledgeable one
2. Use the objectives to teach the entire team new skill sets
Managers need to make sure that their team members are constantly learning and developing new skill sets. Managers that know their team members well and take their mentoring and coaching responsibilities seriously have high performance team members.
Click to take the motivation survey and get back the analysis: Motivation Survey
What is the best style of management? At a recent workshop I gave, participants were discussing the pros and cons and macromanagement and micromanagement. We know that either of the options will not produce the best performance from the team.
Marcomanagement is too hands-off and will not get the desired performance from the team. Micromanagement is too hands-on and will suffocate the team, also not getting the desired performance from the team.
Peter Druker, the revered 'father of modern management,' introduced the concept of Management by Objective. Management by Objectives, or MBO, is based on desired outcome. Unlike traditional management, where a manager directs his team by how much each member should produce or complete, MBO managers direct their team by focusing on the end results: what needs to be accomplished.
Objective and Key Results (OKR) is a good example of Management by Objectives:
OKR can successfully be used for one time projects or ongoing teamwork. The OKR framework combines the best aspects of both micromanagement and macromanagement. With OKR managers meet with the team to decide together what to focus on, and what timely outcomes they expect. It provides the manager with specifics tools with which to measure the outcome and the performance of the team. It also enables the manager to entrust the team to make the best possible decisions based on the outcome they are all working toward. The manager stays available to coach and guide the team but becomes a mentor to consult with rather than a dictator that tells them exactly what to do.
A great manager must ask themselves the following:
If the answer to either of those questions is NO. Managers should really reconsider their management style and tactics and embrace a hybrid performance management framework like the objectives and key results one to get the best possible performance from the team.
What is the missing link between team members saying that they will do something, and actually getting it done?
Most managers have been through this scenario: they meet with their team members and conceive a plan of action. After much debate and many conversations, the team agrees on a way forward. The plan is divided amongst the team members and they are off to the races to get the plan implemented. Then, almost like clockwork, certain team members do not accomplish what they agreed to do, and it begins to slow down the rest of the team. At first the reasons for not accomplishing the work is reasonable and understandable. Of course no manager wants to be a dictator and gives these team members the benefit of the doubt, and a second chance. But then, once again, the team members fall short of accomplishing their goals.
If above mentioned description sounds familiar, do not despair. Unfortunately it is more common that one would imagine. So what can be done to remedy these kinds of situations? The following are steps and a framework that managers can use to help them keep their team members on task.
The goal of the manager should be to ensure that team members never come to a meeting with an excuse or reason as to why they did not accomplish what was agreed upon, by using these steps that can be avoided.
You often hear venture capitalists say that when they hear a pitch they are more interested in the team that will execute on the idea than in the idea itself. Meaning, that yes the business has to be a good one, however, investors are more interested in who is part of the team and how the team will work together in order to launch the business successfully.
Why is it so important for venture capitalists to know the makeup of the team in order to invest in an idea?
People often say: everyone has an idea in the back of their head but only some act on their ideas. And the ones that act on them have a chance of turning their ideas into an actual successful businesses.
For an idea to translate into a successful business the following must happen:
Since the people working on the idea are such an important component of the idea becoming a successful business, it is obvious why venture capitalists are most motivated by the people involved in the idea.
The same is true for any organization. For an organization to be successful the following must happen:
What should organizations do to make sure that they have the team that any venture capitalist would want to bet on?
At a conference I recently attended I heard a presenter say: we need to put the word “human” back into human resources and start treating team members like humans and less like resources.
In today’s competitive environment the most valuable asset any organization has is their team members.
Steven Kerr, the Golden State Warriors head coach, recently said he spends 80% of his time being a therapist for his players and 20% of his time coaching basketball.
High performance organizations have embraced high performance teams and have leveraged these teams to be high performance organization.
What are high performance teams?
High performance teams are tight knit teams that work very well together to performance beyond the abilities of each individual team member would they worked alone in silos.
The main characteristics that high performance teams have are:
The psychology and explanation behind high performance teams are:
Organizations rely on their teams to create and implement their future vision, and to execute on their goals. Organizations that treat their team members more like humans, and that does not mean more perks, but shows a genuine interest in each team member’s personal and professional lives. Team members are more likely to want to act in a way that enables the organization to create high performance teams and everyone benefits.
What can organizations do to create high performance teams?
Managers need to be coaches
Why managers need to be coaches for their team members in order for each member to perform at their peak.
Everyone needs help and encouragement to perform at their highest level. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, was famously reluctant to get a coach when he started in his position. What finally changed his mind was this question from a friend: Do tennis players have coaches? The point was not lost on Eric, and he now greatly appreciates having a someone that guides him in decision making and leadership responsibilities.
What is great about coaching others, and why should managers focus on it?
A coach is a someone who helps another person think through situations and allows them see things from different perspectives. The coach is not necessarily going to give the coachee the answer, whether they have it or not, nor will they want to just provide easy solutions.
One of the main responsibilities of managers is to act as a coach to the team members they manage.
When managing others, or even oneself, it is difficult to see the other’s point of view or to play devil’s advocate and hence be a coach. Managers see themselves as the ones that need to have the answers and fix the challenges. On the other hand, coaches take the time to assess the situation and then help teach team members see the situation from all perspectives.
A good coach will:
Managers must always remember that the most valuable asset of any organization is its team members. As with any valuable asset, team members must be taken care of with constant diligence. When managers act as (good) coaches they will help their team members bask in their strengths and perform at their best.
I was having an interesting conversation yesterday with a client about team member retention. And I was telling the client that team member retention is important for team moral and organizational culture. I recently heard a statistic about failed team member hires and the cost associated with it. By some estimates a failed hire can cost upward of 40% of the annual team member salary with a minimum cost of 20%. So if a team member is being paid $50K annually a failed hire can cost between $20K and $10K. Those are big numbers for organizations whether they are big or small operations. Hiring right is a challenge for all organizations but having a team member acquisition strategy helps a lot.
Using your strength intelligently
I was recently listening to a podcast by Adam Grant about strengths. He was saying that not using your strengths intelligently can be detrimental. It got me thinking about what it means to use strengths intelligently and how managers can help their team members do this. When managers do annual reviews the tendency is to focus on the "room for improvement" items and leave what is good alone. A missed opportunity, as mentioned is the podcast, is the chance for managers to help their team members also improve on their strengths. So how do managers do that? Identifying what made a team member successful as a particular task or objective is a starting point. But taking it a step further is analyzing the task or objective and identifying what could have made the task or objective even more successful if the the team member's strength would have been better leveraged. Using the team member's strength more intelligently would have made the difference and helped the team member better leverage their strength. Say a team member is good at solving complex challenges but solving challenges without the ability to implement the solution is not very useful. In today's environment most team members do not work in silos and must be able to work within a group. If the team member who is great at solving complex challenges would get input from other team members while the solution is being developed, the solution would be implemented properly and fully accepted. So what does that look like? Asking for feedback from other team members who will need to help implement the solution is good. Getting those team members involved is even better and enabling the best option to win and not the solution of the loudest team member to win is even better. So whether you are looking at your own strengths, or helping others look at their strengths, remember that using strengths intelligently is the best way to use and leverage a strength fully.
Gender Pay Gap
One of the big conversation at the Wharton People Analytics Conference was gender pay gap. As a father of two little girls this is an issue I take to heart. Every organization knows that it is an issue, and they are all (hopefully) trying to fix the problem. An interesting insight that I heard at the conference was, that it is not enough to just compare male and female pay who are in the same role. Rather one needs to include analysis into other variables, such as experience, education and other skills to create a fuller picture of the pay gap. Interestingly when an organization includes more variables in their analysis they find that the gap may not be as large as they thought it to be. We need to think critically about the roles all employees play at our organizations and come up with fair conclusions and how they should be compensated.
No organization can invest resources in every idea and program. So when an organization is presented with two different program ideas, how should they proceed? I recently read about the method that the Robin Hood Foundation, whose mission is to fight poverty in New York City, uses, which is the benefit-cost ratio: they assign a dollar amount for the outcome and divide that by the amount they invest in order to achieve that outcome. For example: an organization invests $1000/person to help people in recovery. The outcome from the investment is that these people end up leading healthy and fulfilling lives. The dollar amount assigned to the outcome is $10,000. So the ratio for this program would be 10:1, a pretty good investment. Organizations must have methods to quantify their programs, not only because donors usually ask for it but, because it is beneficial for the organization.
I am always amazed, and a bit perplexed, when I receive a call or an email, from an organization I never heard of, asking me to please donate money to them. I wonder: are they shooting in the dark and hopping for best? Or, perhaps they are playing with my Jewish guilt and hoping I will respond generously. In this current era of crowdsource funding, and the many platforms available for organizations to use, it is easier than ever to run a fundraising campaign. Any organization can set up a web page, purchase a contact list of potential donors, and just reach out to every possible donor until they collect their goal. However, I wonder if this is a long-term winning strategy? Organizations MUST make their cause relevant and personal to their donor. Donors are bombarded with fundraising appeals and are being asked to donate to many causes many of which are very worthy. The only way for an organization to differentiate itself from the vast competition and to employ a winning strategy is to engage the donors, and NEVER take the donors for granted. I recently received in the mail a handwritten note, personal, and a picture of the program my funds went towards, relevant, thanking for my support.
By definition, nonprofits do not measure their success by profit or revenue. However, measuring success, wether it’s measuring the impact of a specific program or the impact they are having on their community, is vital for a nonprofit and this can be done in several ways. Some starting points are program growth rate, program retention rate, customer satisfaction and third party referrals. Nonprofits can, and should, have an objective for each program (i.e. what is this program trying to accomplish?), and should measure each participant and how they progressed using the program objective as the baseline benchmark. Measuring outcomes is a great way to stay honest about what is being accomplished, and will help nonprofits stay accountable to their community and supporters.
Individualized team management
I was recently talking to a client about team management, and they expressed that the team does not always follow through on the guidance that is given to them. I asked the client if, after giving the guidance to the team, they ensure that the team has the support and tools necessary to follow through on the guidance. Managers can easily forget to make sure that their team has the necessary tools to accomplish their goals.
It is not enough to give guidance and coach your team. Managers must painstakingly review each team member and ensure that they are equipped for success. Investing in individual professional development for each team member and crafting a plan that is specific to them, guarantees that the team will exert their greatest effort to accomplish the organization's goals. Investing in individuals is the best way to ensure organizational growth.
Make Change Happen
It is never easy to make changes nor is it ever a good time to make changes. When things are going well we are reluctant to make changes, because: why rock the boat when everything is smooth? When things are not going well, it is hard make changes because you need the willpower to overcome the current challenges and turn things around. The truth is, making changes is necessary and the best time to make changes is when things are going well. When things are going well you are in a positive mindset, and are willing to try new things. When things are going well, you are financially stable and in the right position to absorb the risk. When things are going well, you do not feel threatened and can make changes that will have lasting effects. Do not wait until it is too late to make changes. Change is inevitable and will happen whether you make it or circumstances force you to change. Make changes now!
More of the right thing is better
There is a tendency to want to offer more. For profit organizations want to make more money, and non profit organizations want to service more people.
I am currently reading Do the KIND Thing by Daniel Lubetzky. Daniel, a very intriguing and admirable entrepreneur, writess about his challenge of launching a second product in his nutritional snack company KIND. The KIND bar was a very successful first product, and Daniel wanted to ensure that he would not disappoint his customers. KIND customers had become acquainted with a simple product with pronounceable ingridients and transparent packaging that displayed what would be consumed. Lubetzky needed his second product to have all these qualities, so that his customer base would continue to buy and enjoy KIND snacks.
No organization can be everything for everyone. This concept can be challenging for a nonprofit organization since they are in the business of helping as many as possible. Nonetheless, even a non profit must stay true to its brand and grow to offer new services that represent the organization and do not disappoint the people that they service. The next time you find yourself ready to launch a new service, although is may sound appealing and exciting, ask yourself: does it represent my brand and will my clientele be satisfied with it?
Learning from failure
We always hear how learning from our failures is more important than learning from our successes. What is it that failures have that successes do not have? We humans like to understand why? Why did something happen or did not happen? Failing can bruise the ego especially when the failure has financial ramifications. When we succeed we are less inclined to find out why we succeeded. We often attribute successes to our skills and intelligence. However, when we fail, we are forced to reckon with the idea that we are not invincible and part of life is coming up short. That discomfort of failure sets into motion the desire to ask and find out why? Why did we fail? When we take a closer look at the failure we discover the why and store that lesson for future use. It is not always fun to ask why when we fail but it certainly holds the biggest lessons we learn in life.
I was talking to a client yesterday about donor retention, and we were running some numbers. The average nonprofit has a 40% donor retention, which means: for every $100,000 raised each year, only $40,000 of those donations repeat the following year. To continue to cover its budget, an organization needs to find brand new donors to contribute the $60,000 it lost from the previous year's donors. By developing a donor retention program (engaging donors throughout the year) the donor retention number can go from 40% to at least 50%. A donor retention program is a must for any organization to survive and grow.
How Charity Water is changing the world
I just finished reading a New York Times Best Seller book and I highly recommend it. Thirst is the story of how Scott Harrison built and continues to grow Charity Water, an organization that is bringing clean water to the world. It is truly an inspiring story on so many different levels. As someone who works with nonprofits, I wanted to highlight a few key lessons that I hope to incorporate into the nonprofits that I work with:
I really hope you'll take the time to read Thirst and learn more about what Scott Harrison is doing to change the world.
Team members should be encouraged to negotiate, solve and resolve internal team challenges on their own.
When team members have to negotiate and solve their internal challenges, it ensures that the team members get to know each other and find out how each person operates. In order to negotiate a win-win agreement, the parities negotiating must be sensitive to one another and understand where each one is coming from. This process also assures that the organization as a whole wins, since as a whole the team will become a stronger unit. Although at times negotiations can be messy, when team members negotiate as part of the same team, the relationship between the team members becomes stronger and deeper. Since the most valuable asset that an organization has is its team members, when they work in unison the work environment becomes more enjoyable.
A monthly team meeting should be scheduled to discuss the organization’s state-of-affairs, and to communicate any updates or important information.
In addition to the obvious benefits of a team meeting, the monthly get-together enables team members and team leaders to connect with one another. The time spent together ensures that the culture of the organization is fostered and cemented amongst the team members. Recognition of the team's hard work through out the month should be given. The monthly meeting is also an opportunity for all team members to review each other's objectives and key results. Additionally, if there are teams that need help, the meeting is a chance for all team members to provide assistance to those who need it. Since the organization's objectives and key results are built from each team's objectives and key results, when one team misses their objectives and key results, the responsibly and the onus is on all teams to assist wherever possible. Thus, the monthly team meeting is a lot more than just keeping everyone on the same page and updated.
What other benefits do you see from having regular team meetings? Share you comments and observations.
Every team member should understand who to report to, how often to report, and what to report.
When a team member is unsure of his or her exact role, or is unclear on who their direct manager is, it creates inefficiencies in the operation. It also makes the team member less effective. When the reporting structure is unclear, it's unfair to the team member as this can and will lead to frustrations. Making it clear to the team member what is expected of them, including who to report to, how often to report, and what exactly to report enables the team member to be effective. When team members are effective, the operation becomes efficient and as a result the organization accomplishes its objectives and key results.
A team leader should be appointed whenever there are multiple people doing the same task.
The most efficient way to manage multiple team members is through a team leader. When many team members do similar tasks and the work of each individual complements the other, the team requires a leader. The team leader acts as the driving force behind the team. The leader is responsible to gather a report from each team member and give the team report to the manager. Thus, the manager only has to manage the team leader in order to manage the entire team. This frees up the manager's time and enables the team to have their own objectives and key results in addition to the individual objectives and key results of each member.
Every team member should have a standing biweekly meeting with their manager. The meeting agenda should include issues that come up between meetings that cannot wait to be addressed.
A team member who does not have a standing meeting with their manager may send many unnecessary emails to their manager. Reason being, the team member is unsure when they will get face time with their manager and thus thinks that they must communicate via email. However, when a team member has a standing meeting and has the tools and authority to do their job, there is little reason to email with questions. As some of the questions that they have, they may be able to answer on their own, and the questions that they cannot answer, they will save to ask their manager during their meeting. Thus, a standing meeting can help streamline communication thereby saving time and misunderstandings.
A team member should be given the tools and authority necessary to do their job, along with the guidance and support that they need.
When a team member is given the authority and tools to do their job, they do it to the best of their ability. They take responsibility for the outcome of their efforts and keep trying until they get it right. They take pride in their work and they pleasantly surprise you most of the time. If you want to get the most out of a team member, give them the tools and authority they need and they will produce results for your organization.
What rules have you implemented in your organizations? Comment below and share your rules for managing an efficient organization.
Baruch Hecht is a management consultant, experienced COO, the founder of Management Shop, and an avid reader of business literature.