Team Culture – Ten Traits of a Highly Productive Team

Have you ever been part of a productive team? Do you remember what that felt like?
Have you ever been part of an unproductive team? Do you remember what that felt like?

Team culture plays a large role in job satisfaction and productivity so it’s essential that when we are leading teams we consider the elements that make a highly productive team; not only for the outcomes of the business but to retain our skilled employees through job satisfaction.

Ten traits of a highly productive team

Ownership – passing the buck and placing blame on others is ineffective and creates a negative environment within a team. Taking ownership of the task through to completion builds trust within the team and creates a clear end goal for team members. Of course, the leader of the team has overall ownership of the teams tasks so has a clear role to play in assigning tasks; I have written a separate article about leadership here.

Initiative – team members bringing their initiative to the table is a welcome trait. Those who work on their own initiative are likely to complete their tasks more efficiently due to requiring less support during the course of the tasks. Of course; that’s not to be confused with working in isolation which is to carry on regardless without any input or support from the team because the team member has their own view on how the tasks should be completed. Using ones own initiative and working in isolation are different things.

Mastermind – as Napoleon Hill states; the power of the mastermind is the driving force behind all achievement. That is; a driving force of a team full of ideas and collaboration is stronger than an individuals lone ideas. Therefore; every team members’ ideas, suggestions, challenges and solutions are valid; regardless of their position. Again, it is the leaders responsibility to create the setting for the mastermind to be relevant and effective “ten minds are better than one when working together in harmony”. I have worked in teams that weren’t even within my department; but the leader of the project felt that my skills and ideas would benefit their project so I was invited to attend the project team meetings. This was a great learning experience for me and from that moment onwards I sought out team members from varying departments that had skills and ideas to attend project team meetings which helped the team to challenge the status quo and bring a different perspective to the challenges we faced.

Trust – one of the killers of a productive team is lack of trust and respect for each other. Underlying personal or professional grudges create false realities and cause friction within a team. Regular team building and dealing with issues quickly can help build trust and respect within the team. The leader has a large role to play in setting the scene for rapid issue resolution and team building to occur.

Goals – teams can not be productive without each member understanding what they are working towards. Have you ever been in a job where you felt like you were “just doing a job” because it wasn’t clear how your role fits into the organisations purpose? I have and it’s damaging to your confidence as well as your positivity which is a dangerous mix for a productive team. Most people want to feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves and when you spend so many hours of your life at work we, as leaders, can not allow team members to feel that their role isn’t contributing to the bigger picture. Goals. Important. ☺️

Development – lack of developing the team members skills is one of the biggest reasons organisations lose talented and skilled staff. Most people want to feel like they are moving forward in their careers, it’s a mark of respect from the organisation to the employee when they invest in the employee. This creates a positive and productive employee who in returns respects their employer and remains an effective contributing team member.

Positivity – it’s hard to remain positive if many of the other items listed above have not been achieved. Forced positivity is a false economy. Positivity must be genuine and can only be achieved through a positive work environment. Employee surveys can help us understand where areas of concern lie and better understanding our employees on an emotional level. Our team members are humans not numbers and it’s important we respect each other’s differing personalities.

Kept in the loop – I have worked for organisations that have done this really well and ones that haven’t. The ones that did this well-earned respect from the team even during some very challenging times. The organisations that didn’t do this well created an environment of distrust, negativity and speculation which ultimately damages the reputation of both the organisation and the team members. Secrecy is never a good trait for an organisation to have. Confidentiality and strategic communications are important when dealing with sensitive issues; but secrecy; that is when one person in the team is up to speed but not the others; begins a downward spiral towards distrust, speculation and environment where hearsay confuses reality. No matter how large the project or how sensitive the content of the project it is essential that an effective communications plan is devised from the outset to ensure the team is appropriately ‘kept in the loop’. I am a huge advocate for updating my teams on performance; because if we do not then how do they know where they are, where they need to be and how, we as a team, are going to work together to get there. After quizzing a senior manager  once about a missing pathway in the organisations strategy I was asked “does it matter? do the team members really care about the strategic direction?” my answer is “yes, yes they do, they just don’t know it as “strategic direction” they know it is their “action plans” and without this pathway how can they possibly understand how their  day-to-day tasks make a difference to the organisation?” Never underestimate the importance of being kept in the loop.

Feedback – two-way feedback is an essential component to working within a productive team. The reason we say two-way is the feedback should not always come from the leader or project manager. I have seen business owners meet with their teams and present an idea they have to the team and tell the team how much they like their own idea. The business owner would then ask their team members what they think. Now how many of them would have been brave enough to state they didn’t like the idea that their manager has just presented to them??? Not many. Therefore, it is essential that out personal opinions are kept to one side until everyone has had the opportunity to feedback. Again, the project manager or team leader should create the environment for feedback to occur without prejudice. I admit, I have been guilty in the past of being super-excited about an idea and have been really keen to share it with the team and then disappointed when the team weren’t quite as excited as me; but this is a process and the feedback from the other team members gave me the insight to understand the challenges my idea presented allowing us to consider alternative options and solutions.

Approachable – as mentioned earlier, we are all human. We can not switch this off simply because we may work in a corporate environment. We need to be more aware of human behaviour. Emotional intelligence is a great skill to have. It does not mean you are a weak manager or team member; the opposite in fact. It means we can adapt our language, tone and presentation of information dependent on the personality type of the team. Therefore, being approachable is vital to a productive team. Team members simply won’t engage well with unapproachable people which results in project delays and mis-communication.

So now we have looked at some traits that result in a highly productive team it is worth considering how we go about achieving those traits. There are some ideas listed in the content above; but by all means, drop me a message or give me a call if you need to brainstorm some ideas or chat about specific issues your team may be facing and we can work through it together.

Until Next Time

C

What Makes a Good Leader?

Are you a “Cool Cat” or an “Explosive Eddy”?

I don’t know about you, but I have seen plenty of infographics and social media posts about what makes a good leader and they are all much of the same but here are some I particularly resonate with because they are traits I have seen in good leaders and traits I continue to develop for myself. Let me know what traits you feel resonate with you by commenting on this post!

  • Self Manages – the ability to manage ones self is a skill within itself! Effective time management, prioritising and regulating your own emotions are essential skills of an effective leader. Too often we have seen admin tasks taking up our time when we have big impact changing tasks on our to do lists. Effective leaders know how to manage their time and say no to tasks that take away from the overall vision. I have seen some very “cool cat” leaders throughout my career who have handled a potentially explosive atmosphere with calmness, tact and maintaining their ability to show empathy and understanding while achieving the outcomes they desired. I have also seen leaders lose their temper and embarrass their team in front of others due to an over-inflated ego and this didn’t achieve the outcome they desired. Personally; I try to model my leadership skills on the first example I mentioned; be a “cool cat” knowing that this is far more likely to achieve the outcome desired than losing control of my emotions.

 

  • Acts Strategically – a forward thinking and open-minded approach is necessary when leading a team towards a vision. Being flexible and adaptable to new ideas and solutions will future-proof the organisation from lack of innovation. Acting strategically also helps leaders to focus on what matters and what doesn’t; giving us the opportunity to look for better ways of doing things to improve efficiencies and meet the organisations objectives. Again; too often I have seen leaders waste time on small insignificant items that make little to no impact on the broader vision; thinking strategically allows the team to align themselves to what is going to make a difference; keeping the vision, and the team, alive.

 

  • Effective Communicator – Being able to explain to your team everything from organisational goals to specific tasks is essential. If the team aren’t aware of what is expected of them how can we be disappointed when the task isn’t achieved? Being a multi-level communicator is a great skill to have; adapting tone, language and information to reflect the team member will help the team reach the goal more effectively. Being approachable and involving people from various levels and departments will most certainly help create a more productive work place. Personally; I absorb information best by being shown either in text or visually and then, if necessary, apply this information on a practical level. Other team members may prefer to be hands-on straight away to absorb information. Team members are likely to absorb, process and apply information differently, so it is important leaders recognise this within their teams and adapt information sharing accordingly.

 

  • Accountable & Responsible – leaders are the overall responsibility owner. If a team member makes a mistake it is the leader that takes ownership of that mistake and identifies how and why the issue occurred and takes steps to repair the error or adapts processes taking from the lessons learnt. There is nothing more soul-destroying than being shamed in front of team members by a manager/leader. The leader needs to self-reflect to see the role they played in the issue that occurred. Mistakes are inevitable, but I believe it is they way they are handled that are our true tests as leaders.

 

  • A Visionary – good leaders manage change while keeping stability and maintaining growth within their organisation. Change is always occurring; we no longer sit still. continuous improvement are two buzz words that have been thrown around for several years now. However, leaders need to balance this change with day-to-day operations while also keeping a close eye on the ongoing performance. Not an easy task! In my experience visionary leaders are exciting to work with because they keep the momentum going even when the going gets tough. I try to model my own behaviours on this as a leader by regularly reminding team members of the vision, the exciting places that are on the horizon. This helps to create a positive backdrop as the change management process is underway.

 

  • Manages Complexity – leaders must be problem solvers who can make decisions under rapidly shifting circumstances. Learning to lead in a complex environment is a vital skill for any leader. Effective leaders must assess a situation’s complexity and choose an appropriate course of action.

 

  • Sets Clear Goals – this is an obvious one and falls directly from the visionary trait. Goals are derived from an organisations strategy and objectives and are the building blocks towards achieving the overall vision. A leader is good at understanding the level of goals depending on the team. A senior management teams goals will look different to a front-line teams; however, they are equally as important.

 

  • Promotes Teamwork – leaders often use the word “we” instead of I. the reason for this is because they understand the power of a productive team. The MasterMind of achievement lies within a productive team. There is another article here on productive teams.

 

  • Creative & Innovative – this goes without saying because leaders tend to naturally be creative and innovative. Some of the most successful companies in the world were built in times of recession and depression because the leader saw an opportunity and was creative with  the very little resources they had available to them. I have led teams through some challenging times and we produced amazing results due to the ability to think-outside-the-box. When resources are limited the requirement to be creative and innovative is even more essential.

 

  • Builds relationships – a leader keeps the organisations purpose, values and mission at the heart of all they do. Building relationships and maintaining positive relationships with both internal and external stakeholders is essential to that mantra. I have come across damaged relationships in the past simply because personal opinion and ego got in the way. Repairing those relationships was relatively easy once personal opinion was set aside; reminding each other that both stakeholders are working towards the same objective, therefore, positive working was the best way forward.

 

  • Adaptable – the nature of leading a team or an organisation will always require adaptation; whether it be task-related or trait related. It is essential to have the ability as leader to adapt suddenly to changing circumstances and to know how and when to seize on opportunities amid a changing landscape. In addition, having an insatiable curiosity will fuel a leaders desire to constantly learn and grow. Developing critical thinking skills, being accepting of uncertainty, having social and emotional intelligence and always having the desire and determination to push forward will see a leader steer their team towards the organisations objectives.

Let me know what you think makes a good leader in the comments below

Until Next Time

 

C