I hesitate to start this blog with the c-word – yes, Christmas – because we’re only getting back to normal after the festive season. But I tell you what you don’t want for Christmas and that’s having to lay out two thousand pounds for your car’s annual service. Gah! We drive a beautiful ten year old Saab, in pristine condition, but given her age and mileage (118k miles on the clock; rising fast) she needs careful looking after.
What with one thing and another last year – lots of travel for Mr D and for me with our respective jobs; family stuff and the general business of living – we didn’t keep on top of the small jobs that could have been done during the year, leading to this healthy bill only a few days before Christmas. Never mind. It meant we drove down to Cornwall early in the New Year for a week’s break in a vehicle that handled like a purring supercar. Marvellous.
That said, we know that we shouldn’t have put things off (NB none of them tipped the car into a state of illegality) but it’s easy to do. And the same can be said of working with, maintaining and generally keeping your team in tip-top condition.
Great teams have purpose, passion and perseverance. To maintain and make them even better it’s important to have regular checks and balances, one-to-one, and collectively, to make sure things are going well. Little and often is most definitely better than rarely and unmanageably, or not at all.
Take feedback, for example. We all know that we should do it, but often don’t. Time is the reason people give most often for failing to provide feedback to their colleagues. The reality is more likely an underlying “I don’t know how to do this properly”. Fear of upsetting someone is the main reason that really stops us, and yet most people say they genuinely want properly delivered, developmental feedback. That might be about things that we need to do more of, because it’s working well, or things that need tweaking, or even those things that have to stop altogether.
Another thing that teams can really benefit from is an awareness of their own and others’ Social Style. This excellent model looks at the patterns of observable “say” and “do” behaviours that we have evolved in response to certain aims, and when, how and why to flex them. It’s invaluable in helping us to understand why others – and indeed we – act the way we do, and to notice the real strengths that our differences bring, rather than focusing on where those differences are uncomfortable or irritating.
Of course you may already work with a particular model of behaviours/personality – which is fantastic – the point is simply about paying attention to and using that knowledge for the comfort and ease of all in the team, and harnessing those differences productively.
Then there’s taking the time to come together and learn from triumph as well as rejection or failure. My view is that we often gloss over the things that go well without sharing our own learning and reflections. Or that we brood over rejection without thinking about what next, what differently, and sharing that with our team, seeing it instead as something fixed and permanent.
So, may I suggest that you take a moment to consider where your team needs some maintenance? Any or all of the above? Something different? Even an opportunity to grab a coffee together for 15 minutes and see how people are. I say that as an Expressive in Social Style terms, someone who enjoys working with and being around other people, and I know that’s not the same for everyone. But we all, even if it isn’t our number one priority, need to be amenable to our colleagues’ efforts to communicate and build relationships with us.
And if you’d rather not, it’s worth keeping in mind the words of Mark H McCormack (former lawyer and then founder of IMG sports consultancy, who represented among others the amazing golfer Arnold Palmer), “If you’re not going to make friends with your clients (whether internal or external – my note) you’d better resign yourself to doing business with neutrals at best, enemies at worst. And if you’re only going to be doing business with neutrals and enemies, you’d better be the best in your field at everything you do.”
Good teams have people in them who like, respect and hopefully trust one another. That takes time and hard work. And while assuming that we’re all good at the technical elements of our job, when things go wrong, the people who like, respect and trust you will help you make things better far more quickly than if you’re dealing with the enemy.
So, get your metaphorical toolkit out, and good luck with some team development, hopefully in the near future.
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