Teamwork Requires Team Balance
Team Balance – Building High Performance Teams
The elements of leadership and team performance under the highly competitive and dynamic environments of today’s global workplace challenge the best of teams to consistently perform at the highest levels. What makes one team more effective than another? How does a team maintain balance? Consider this: Under intensely competitive conditions in a fast-paced workplace, those companies that can ‘balance’ long term vision and at the same time focus on current performance are those companies that outperform and thrive. Think about the challenges of the past couple of years and the companies that have come and gone. The financial industry is a great example where the focus of short term profits at the expense of a long term strategy has resulted in collapse. In fact many companies today are so laser focused on ‘this quarter’s results’ that opportunities in the periphery are often lost or completely ignored. Often times this results in business devastation or at a minimum significant financial losses negatively impacting the human resources of an organization.
The concept of team balance seems simple, yet it is one of the most challenging aspects of leading teams and driving high performance. We are constantly witnessing this phenomenon with our clients. Corporations come to us and ask for ways to increase team performance. What shows up is an organization that is highly effective in some areas of balanced teamwork but lack in other critical areas that limits the ability for teams to reach the effectiveness and efficiency of the highest performing teams.
There is much that can be done to dig into the dynamics of team balance and improve performance if a team is truly committed to making this happen. But at a very minimum we encourage teams to consider this simple, yet very effective acronym that is a reminder of how to keep a team working in balance.
T THINK: This is the most difficult aspect of team balance across U.S. cultures. In a culture that promotes action and results, this aspect of team balance can often feel like ‘inaction’ with teams wanting to quickly ‘check it off the list’. Gathering information before moving forward into planning and execution is critical to this stage of the team process. Assessing what information is available and what more is needed is important to evaluating the alternatives of action. This is the cornerstone to creating a ‘vision’ for the team. Really digging into the possibilities of the information presented ensures that all team members are able to fully understand what the ‘vision’ is before proceeding. Seems simple? Guess again! Over and over when we put teams into action on a problem solving mission, this step of creating team balanced is passed over quickly. Critical information that can lead to maximum revenues is often overlooked as the team naturally gravitates to completing the task. In the end, the task may have been completed but at the expense of missing significant revenue possibilities. Encourage your team to slow down and take some time to THINK.
E ENGAGE: Once the team has gathered all the information that is needed, then the team can begin to use that information to generate possible alternatives to action. This is where ideas are heard, alternatives are analyzed, and promotion of the ‘best alternative’ is pursued. It is important that all team members are contributing to this process so that the team does not miss opportunities. Often we see that the quieter members of a team will have the best solution. What happens is that their ideas are never heard by the team as the more expressive team members typically take control. Step back and make sure that ALL team members are involved. Once this happens – then move into analyzing the possibilities.
A ACTIVATE: If the ‘T’ and ‘E’ are addressed effectively, the ‘A’ should be fairly smooth. The best alternative has been selected and now the project plan is put into place. Note the word ‘If’. Many teams chose to jump right into ACTION and then loop back to ENGAGE. This trial and error process often leads to a solution, but often at the expense of maximizing results. When we step back and evaluate what could be, teams will see that the skipping of THINK resulted in missed opportunities of higher performance. Information that was available to the team was completely ignored or never considered. For example, most engineering teams we have worked with are highly developed in the ACTION and ENGAGE areas which is considered a key strength as long as it is not interfering with the balance across the other TEAM elements. Doing seems to be the best use of resources. Where the struggle begins is when the team spends too much time on either the ‘E’ or the ‘A’ and don’t allow for the ‘T’ and ‘M’. At the end of the day, what opportunities in the periphery did the team miss?
M MANAGE: This is where the results are measured, areas of process improvement are identified and quality enhancements are managed. It is important not to get stuck in any of the prior steps of TEAM balance at the expense of ignoring key indicators that may require the team to re-evaluate the process. Teams we work with often run out of time and don’t allow for the MANAGE process. The end result is hurried at the expense of producing output. But, is this the best possible solution?
The TEAM Balance model is simple yet effective for all types of teams. Encourage your team to step back and consider the possibilities that each element of TEAM contributes to the success of the team.