Perhaps you just became a manager of a team, or you have a team project and you want to know how best to control and manage the team to get optimum results.
Managing teams is not like managing a group of individuals. The best teams function as one, investing in the success of the team and not their own success, willing to compromise when it is best for the team outcome. But, getting team members corralled into a cohesive unit is no easy task. You have to have a plan – especially, if these people have never worked on a team before!
Your first meeting should be a team-planning meeting. You should not jump right into the details of a project or task without setting up the ground rules. If you are the team manager, you can plan for this exercise and set up a team building agenda for that first meeting.
If you are a team member and there is no team leader, you can approach the other members before the first meeting and share your thoughts about planning for team structure, responsibilities, how the team will work together, etc. See if you can get them to buy into this and then take the lead when you get to the meeting.
If you are not comfortable leading the team, approach the person you think is the best leader among the members and ask them to work with you to plan the first team meeting. They may accept your offer if you are willing to help them put together the agenda and you can sit back in the meeting and take the compliments on your idea and assistance, then let the leader take the floor.
Here are a few things you can do to lay the groundwork for a successful team. Use these as discussion topics in your first team meeting and you will cover most of the critical issues. Add your own issues to this, specific to your team project or task or to the individuals on the team, and you will be well on your way.
First, you should talk about meeting roles:
- ALWAYS assign a timekeeper to keep you on track and be sure you get everything done before the meeting is finished.
- ALWAYS assign facilitator to jump in on those never ending disagreements, synthesize the contrasting points of view, and get the team to vote and then move on.
- ALWAYS assign a note-taker. You don’t want to rely on conflicting memories of what the team agreed to do. Notes can also serve as a good method of escalating issues to management. You can pare down the notes and send them what they need to see in order to make management decisions so you can proceed.
You should rotate these roles so that one person isn’t always stuck doing the job. Rotation also ensures that the quieter team members will have a reason to speak up.
After you have outlined the roles, choose someone to perform each of these tasks in the first meeting and move on to the team plan.
Here are some other items you should include in your discussion:
- How often will you meet and for how long?
- Who will schedule and announce the meetings, will you assign reading in advance so the team can make the most of their time in the conference room and make decisions.
- How will you maintain team files? Who will maintain them?
- When and how will you escalate issues to management, do you need to have periodic meetings with management to advise them of progress? If so, who will represent the team in those meetings? Will you have to do weekly or monthly management reports?
- Will the team produce team progress reports with assigned action items and completed tasks included in the report? How often will you produce these reports?
- Team votes on conflicting opinions will not be arbitrarily decided. The majority will rule and if there is no majority, the team will perform a problem solving exercise to get to the root of the problem and determine the best solution for the company – not for an individual or to get the team press!
- While you are the meeting, develop a team mission statement with clearly measurable goals, and throw in a value statement for good measure so that you can build a picture of the values you share, and what is important to you in achieving the team goals. You can drag these out whenever a team member gets off mission and remind the team of what they agreed to do.
- Agree upfront that the team will not engage in factions, power struggles or hidden agendas and that every team member’s opinion is valuable. Make a statement that no one will be allowed to own the floor and that the facilitator will always be sure that all opinions are gathered before moving on to the next topic.
- Add other ground rules for managing the meetings and the project as you see fit.
There are many more team management techniques and skills you can use, but if you implement just the ones I have outlined, you are sure to have more team success and avoid much of the conflict and hard feelings that can come from team projects where goals, responsibilities and results are left to guessing.