Friday, 11 December 2009

Be a great team player

Peter Drucker (1909-2005) once said:
“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”
I have been outspoken on occasions about Peter Drucker but this quote is right on the money. I don’t believe any of us do it on purpose, but the result is often that people are frustrated in their work because of what they do themselves, and what others do to them.

So if, as Drucker implies, “management” makes it harder for people to work, how can we create an environment where people do brilliant work? How can we facilitate great team work?

  1. Understand what makes people tick. Everyone is different and they work in different ways. Detail people, big picture people, technical people and wordsmiths all have a valuable role to play in teams. If you can create an environment where people are valued for the talents that they bring to the team, you are a long way down the road to bringing out the best in them.
  2. Leave your ego at the door. Work suffers when egos collide and no-one wins. Good team work needs people to understand first, and agree or disagree afterwards. Easy to write but difficult to do. Most work is improved by having a number of heads look at it, and most work is harmed by divas who won’t have their judgement questioned.
  3. Understand the team’s mission. A team is formed in order to produce something or to perform better. If the thing or the level of performance could be achieved by a number of disparate individuals, there is no need to form a team. Make the purpose of the team’s mission crystal clear so everyone knows what the group is aiming at.
  4. Make individuals accountable for their contribution. A team is not an excuse for everyone and no one to be responsible for problems. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities are important within teams as elsewhere.
The amount that has been written about high performance teams is a testament to both the importance of teams, and the difficulties of getting people to work well together. When people are stressed, or things aren’t going well, it is too easy to blame rather than to understand. But when all has been shouted and accused, only understanding and clarity will improve performance.

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