Focus: People Management - How to... build and manage your team

Amanda Tincknell offers some pointers towards developing a successful team, including the provision of 'team time'.

Having a good team makes a huge difference to your organisation's performance. But what's the best approach - and will one awayday a year really make a difference?

There are lots of questions to consider before you start spending on development programmes or specialist consultants. What sort of team do you want? Are you aiming for 'all stars' or are people in supporting roles just as important? How can you make sure teambuilding contributes to effectiveness and not just the social element of the workplace?

When recruiting, bear your existing team in mind. You will have specific requirements for the job, but you might also consider personal strengths and weaknesses - and personality traits - that could help or hinder your overall team.

Be clear about what benefits you expect from teambuilding activities.

Are you simply trying to improve the office atmosphere, or are you looking for a real sharing of skills and expertise? Set your outcomes, discuss expectations with the team, agree potential benefits and how they will support your work, and invest appropriately.

If you're expecting people to work as a team, give them enough time and resources to do so. As organisations grow, the increasing pressures of service delivery can make it difficult for people to set aside time for communicating, exchanging ideas and supporting each other.

'Team time' could be a special event such as an awayday, for example - but to be effective, it also needs to be part of the working day.

Once you've got your team working effectively, make sure it's not thrown off course by changes. New staff members, changes to the organisation or the need to bring in new skills or a new approach all need careful management.

Setbacks to an organisation can damage team morale, even if individual staff manage well. You might need to return to square one, review the new situation and plan accordingly.

Keep evaluating the benefits of teamworking - are they still relevant to your strategy and service? Things change gradually as well as dramatically, and you should review things with your team regularly. If you go on asking them to contribute to activities that are no longer relevant, it won't help morale.

- This article is intended as a guide and is not a substitute for specific professional advice. The Cranfield Trust is not responsible for errors or omissions

CASE STUDY

A well-known national community support organisation was expanding and needed a regional structure. Branches were asked to work together as a regional team rather than being completely independent, as they had previously been.

To enable managers to meet and get to know each other, the new regional manager employed an external facilitator and arranged a weekend away.

These early steps were followed by a programme of regular meetings. The facilitator helped the individuals to identify the benefits of teamworking, plan and commit themselves to regular communication activities and pinpoint where support was needed from the regional manager. He returned for subsequent meetings to review whether the expected benefits had materialised and to refocus the programme.

One participant said: "We all came away with a much greater understanding of our cultural issues and now have an identity as a group. We have shared our concerns about working to new national standards and policies, and are keen to pool our ideas and good practice knowledge."

AMANDA TINCKNELL is chief executive of the Cranfield Trust (www.cranfield trust.org), which provides free consultancy to the voluntary sector through commercial sector volunteers. This article draws on recent case work.

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