Developing Your Team
Improving Team Performance
Your team is amazing. It works at the highest level of efficiency and reacts responsively at lightning speed in every situation. At times where additional effort is required, your team members step in and out of one another's roles deftly and at a moment's notice… right?
If this is not an accurate description of your team right now, you'll be encouraged to know that it could be very soon.
Developing your team is an important part of your job, whether you're a new team leader or an experienced manager. And it doesn't apply only to new hires. People need training and support throughout their careers – both as individuals and as teams – to develop their skills and to continue to work effectively.
If you work in a small or medium-sized organization, you may perform the roles of recruiter, trainer and team leader. The resources in this article can help you to perform to the best of your ability in each of these roles. If you work within a large organization, the Human Resources or Learning and Development department will likely provide development opportunities for your team.
As a manager, however, you are in a great position to know how your people work, to identify what training they need to perform better, and to work closely with HR or L&D to deliver the right training to the right people at the right time.
In this article, we'll look at several areas of team development, and explore some practical tips and tools to help you get the best out of your people and achieve your objectives.
Identifying Training Needs
The hardest part of developing your team can be knowing where to begin. Start by understanding your team members' developmental needs. Review and update their job descriptions, talk to them, and watch them working.
Often, just asking the right questions can reveal knowledge and skill gaps in your team. For example, what is the key part of a person's role? And what is your team's most urgent performance issue?
This is particularly helpful if your workplace doesn't have a culture of performance management – that is a system of regularly appraising and improving people's performance. If your team members are not used to having their performance appraised and developed in this way, they may view it as a negative judgment of their competency. Gathering specific information about what they need to be successful in their roles will help them to feel positive about developing themselves.
You can use a Training Needs Assessment to help you to identify who needs to develop their skills, and what kind of training is right for them. This will allow you to select training in a targeted way for the people who really need it. After all, Excel® training for one team member who is having trouble with spreadsheets may be a waste of time for other team members with different needs.
It can be helpful to appraise yourself in this way too. You may identify areas where you can improve that will, in turn, help your team to grow.
Choosing the Right Training Methods
Now that you've identified areas where your people can improve, you can choose training to suit their needs. However, finding the right balance between different ways of learning that will suit everyone can be a challenge.
The 70:20:10 model, for example, suggests that 70 percent of learning happens through experience, such as daily tasks; 20 percent through conversations with other people, such as coaching; and 10 percent through traditional training courses. Here, you need to give people the opportunity to use the skills they need to develop, discuss them with more experienced practitioners, and then train appropriately.
Some of the more common ways to improve people's skills include On-the-Job Training, where someone works alongside a more experienced colleague; Instructor-Led Training, where whole groups can be taught in a classroom; and Active Training, which uses games and role-playing to keep learners engaged.
It's worth bearing in mind that many performance gaps should be closed with better communication rather than with a training program. You can coach your team members by having confidential and relaxed one-on-one conversations with them. Having these conversations regularly will help you to identify and deal with a range of issues effectively, from helping people achieve their goals to addressing performance problems.
Specific coaching models, such as GROW, allow you to do this. GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will, and creates a structure for your discussion. The POSITIVE model can help people to find purpose in their work, while the PRACTICE model focuses on finding solutions to problems.
You should also ensure that you give your people plenty of feedback as a matter of routine.
Team Building Activities
Team building exercises can be fun and effective ways to improve teamwork and identify people's strengths and weaknesses. If you decide to run one, you should select the exercise very carefully, so that it meets your training objective.
It's important to identify your team's biggest challenges before you choose an exercise. By doing this, you can ensure that the event is more than just a nice day out of the office. For example, if you have noticed that poor communication has led to your team making mistakes or missing deadlines, you may want to select exercises that improve essential communication skills like listening, empathy and verbalization.
Pick an activity that you will be comfortable joining in with. Your team may be looking to you to set the expectations for the exercise, and to model the behaviors you want to develop.
Effective delegation can also strengthen your team. You may feel nervous about handing over responsibility for your projects and tasks to someone else, but you don't have time to do everything yourself. And your team members need opportunities to learn new skills and gain experience.
If you have not delegated tasks that your team has the potential to perform, make a list prioritizing your most important tasks and delegate those at the lower end. Your people can work their way up the list as they gain experience.
When you delegate, you will need to manage the process well to achieve the best outcome for your people. Hand over a task carefully and help the team member who takes it on to succeed, by giving them support and guidance to complete it. Otherwise, your team members may not want to take on other tasks in the future.
When you delegate successfully, you can focus on adding value with your own work. Taking on a new challenge will improve your people's confidence and give them a great sense of empowerment. (Find out how good your delegation skills are with our quiz.)
Mastering the art of delegation promotes trust within a team and is just one of the key skills of managers who use a transformational style of leadership.
This approach will help you to connect with your team members, set clear goals, and be an example of integrity and fairness. It allows you to develop a team that is highly motivated and consistently achieving its individual and shared goals.
Your HR department may have a formal talent management plan in place for identifying and developing people with key skills, abilities and potential across your organization. As a manager, you can identify members of your own team with specific talents, help to retain them, and develop their abilities. You can work with HR to hire staff with the right skills, and support their development with an effective performance management system.
You can assess who is achieving and exceeding their goals with the Nine-Box Grid for talent management. This is a useful tool that will help you evaluate your team members, based on their performance and potential.
Once you have identified your team members' abilities and performance levels, you can put plans in place so that you don't lose vital skills and knowledge if any of them decide to move on. Good succession planning ensures that individuals pass on their skills, experience and knowledge to their colleagues well before they leave. Being prepared and managing these transitions will help you to deal with the change more easily.
If you have people on your team with roles so essential that even a day's illness would throw everything into chaos, it may be advisable to cross-train your team members in one another's responsibilities. This will provide you with a flexible team that can step in and help one another at a moment's notice.
An effective team doesn't come into existence by accident. There are lots of things you can do to make your team a high-performing one.
It begins with clearly defined roles for your team members that will help keep them on track and achieve their targets. Observing them at work will identify their strengths and weaknesses, and will enable you to match training to their learning styles. As well as signing your people up to training courses, you can get involved in their learning by coaching them.
You can also help your team members get to know one another better and build trust with team activities. Help to develop their skills and experience by delegating some of your tasks, and by ensuring that everyone can take on tasks by cross-training them in one another's roles.
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!