Tag: high performance work teams

3 Signs You Have an Effective Team

In 3 signs you have an effective team, Tricia Cunningham focuses on results, communication and conflict resolution. Here she outlines why these requirements are so important for managers, not just for the immediate impact on the bottom line but also for the long-term stability and profitability of the business.

1 The Team Achieve Positive Results

The most obvious sign of effective management, and the one most people are eager to see, is results. However, it’s not just the positive results themselves that needs to be achieved but the process needs to be positive. Results need to be achieved in a way that can be maintained long term. If the process of achieving the positive results is too stressful and intense employees will burn out or leave – not a desired outcome.

2 Team Members Communicate Effectively

The second sign of effective management is clear communication between each team member within the group and with management. Core to this communication is clarity of role and responsibilities. People need to know what others are doing and where there needs to be a handover. Effective communication allows team members to understand what is happening within the team, what is likely to happen next and where support is needed. The manager drives this activity assisting the team in finding the optimum communication approaches and ensuring they are adhered to.

3 The Team Resolve Issues Without Resorting to Blame

Thirdly, when an issue arises, effective teams are able to resolve it without it becoming personal or resorting to blaming each other and falling out over it. Managers guide team members to analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or natural instinct. The focus becomes the issue and not the person. Language is monitored and labels are avoided.

No playing the blame game or finger pointing.

What if the team gets along well but their results are poor?
Every area of the business must have clearly identified targets they are expected to achieve and these targets need to be clearly communicated to all team members, tracked regularly and assessed for corrective action. If targets are not achieved, then something has to change. Managers may need to review targets to see how realistic they were in the first place; maybe they were never achievable based on the resources available.

However, if the targets have been properly assessed and found to be both valid and necessary but the team can’t reach them, then the team has to be held accountable. There needs to be a rigorous review of what prevented the team from succeeding. The manager needs to have that tough conversation with each team member who didn’t perform and with the collective team. Together they need to determine the corrective course of action and need to commit to sticking to that course of action. Once agreed, the manager needs to be rigorous in monitoring progress and address issues promptly.

By the same token, if the results are good in terms of the bottom line but morale within the team is poor, the manager must also address this issue. Fortunately, most team leaders and business owners understand that to sustain the business, you need a motivated workforce.

Low morale will eventually lead to poor results. Productivity will drop if morale is poor.

The other advantage of focusing on developing a strong, positive work culture is that it attracts stronger talent. A positive work environment is more likely to achieve positive results and attract positive, strong performers to the organisation. That’s a win for everyone.


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Sales Targets Are Vital but Managers Can’t Stay in Survival Mode

The Challenge

Since 2008 it’s been a rough ride for small to medium sized businesses. Economic recovery has been painfully slow, and for many business owners and managers survival has been the name of the game. But as LEAP’s Tricia Cunningham points out, there is an inherent danger in companies remaining in survival mode for too long and not focusing on what they need to do to move beyond this stage in the development of their business.

Tricia what are managers telling you about the challenges they face?
Simply put, the greatest challenge managers face is delivering results in a way that keeps a team motivated and individuals committed to delivering results, month after month. In these times there is huge pressure on businesses to deliver results. Everybody has to stay focused on targets, take the eye off that and the business slips. However, as well as focusing on that, managers are realising that they need to stop for a moment and consider how we are achieving results.

You can achieve results in a way that builds a strong team, ensures people are working with you, and that people remain motivated and committed to the organisation. It doesn’t mean that results slip. At the moment there seems to be a heavy emphasis simply on the results. Managers are working to achieve results not recognising that, in the process, people are finding it overly stressful and chaotic. Practices are scattered, there is poorer communication across divisions and across team members. Everybody is focusing only on what they need to achieve themselves, because this is what they are being measured on.

There is such a focus on the business and what they’re being measured on that they’re not asking themselves am I doing it the right way? Am I doing it in a way that is drawing on the strengths of others, or in a way that ensures information is communicated to other departments? All of those good practices are being ignored to some degree as managers focus exclusively on targets. The impact of course is that there is duplication of work, or opportunities are missed, or people are drained to the point of being unmotivated and unable to contribute effectively.

Why do you think managers lost focus on the ‘good practices?’
They lost focus because the pressure is on businesses to deliver, particularly in the last number of years. Companies are under severe pressure to be competitive and reduce costs, to increase customer numbers and margins. All of those factors are at play and they are very important. But when we focus exclusively on those things, we lose sight of some of the good things that have helped build the organisation to the level that has allowed it to manage through the difficult times.

There is a danger that companies will achieve targets, but realise too late that many of the good practices that could allow them to move beyond survival mode and into success mode, have been lost. If they don’t get back to those good practices, they will remain in that survival mode mentality where it’s just about the targets. They forget the other vital areas like how the team is functioning together, and communication between departments.

Was this a conscious decision by companies?
No, it wasn’t conscious. What happened is that businesses had to get leaner and more focused because things got so tight. There was no fat allowed so it got trimmed back to the bare essentials. Organisations acted as though it didn’t matter if people were happy or not. Their mind-set was I have to get the numbers or the business will close. I have to increase customers and margins and cut down our costs.

Cutting back and being very lean became the sole driver, but some managers stopped asking themselves an important question. Are we still maintaining good working practices? Practices that will allow us to achieve the numbers in a way that keeps people motivated and involved in the business, and will help us therefore move to sustainability and not simply survival.

We have had 5 years of an economy in survival mode. Are any companies you work with showing signs of becoming more conscious of good working practices again?
There definitely is a move towards wanting to look at this area again. Companies are recognising that they have some really good people who have stayed with them, and worked hard for them to try and survive through difficult times. Now they are thinking, if I am to keep this person long-term I need to start looking at what I can do to develop the person and keep them engaged with the business.

Long term businesses won’t succeed if they keep the disciplines of survival mode; it’s not good for the business. In that mode they’ll never get the business to the next level as the skills that got them through the survival stage are not necessarily the skills that will get them to the next stage, which is about success. So they are recognising there are things they need to start doing to develop their skill sets to get them to the next stage.

With that in mind what’s your advice to SMEs in terms of managing teams?
Managers have to hit the pause button. They have to figure out the best ways to achieve results, so start looking internally at the organisation and start addressing three key questions.

1. Are we building strong collaborative teams across different functions?
2. What are we doing to improve communication across different functions?
3. What are we doing to keep people involved and motivated so they are able to be more productive and achieve results?

We’d like to hear your thoughts on the issues raised here. Please leave your comments in the box below.

Motivation and the Challenge for New Managers

Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.

Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.

In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.

Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.

Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.

Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.

It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?

When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.