Whatever our line of work, it is virtually impossible to work without interaction with others. If you only ever interact with one other person, you won’t need to develop team management skills – and you will be in a very rare position indeed! Most of us interact with many people from day to day, and whether they are direct reports or multi-party virtual teams, team management skills will be called on every day as you make changes within your organisation.
To help get started, let’s define what we should think about when we talk about a team. The principle characteristic that distinguishes a team from a loose group of people is that a team has a common purpose or objective, something that all members are striving to achieve. Each member of the team may have different personal goals however to contribute to the team, their goals should be aligned in such a way that they all contribute to the team outcomes.
When dealing with any group of people, whether physically together or combined virtually, it is a vital team management skill to ensure that all members share the same desired outcomes from their collective activity. You may find yourself managing a team where the outcomes are defined by others in your organisation. For example, if you are in a sales team, your company may set targets for all sales teams as part of the budgeting process, and your task is to motivate your team to deliver your share of the company’s performance. So, how do we develop internal motivation for the individual team members?
Good team management skills will be greatly assisted if you can develop common goals that all members of the team can support. It is very hard to do this if there is a possibility of misunderstanding or different interpretation, so simply stating the common targets is not enough. A good team management practice is to explore what the team will notice is different if the targets are achieved, and in particular what each team member will notice is different for themselves. Even if the benefits seem obvious, a bonus scheme for example, it is essential to get each team member to work out the specific, observable, measurable difference that achievement will make for them. For example, what will they use their bonus for? What will they notice is different for themselves and their families when they have done it? Translating numerical targets into specific differences creates the opportunity for internal motivation, and starts the process of creating common purpose as all can strive to help each other achieve their desired future state.
So what happens when you do not have a common goal shared by all, or when some members of the team refuse to participate? Your people management skills will come to bear as you work with your colleagues 1-2-1. In 1-2-1 conversations you can explore the specific differences that they would like to see for themselves and their family, and can try to find ways in which you can align their goals with those of the team. If this is not possible, you may need to find other ways in which they can contribute, or else seek opportunities for them to contribute to another team. If you do not have alignment of stakeholder differences to collective goals, you do not have a team, just a loose group of individuals.