How is Your Team Doing?

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Most of us work in groups or teams at some point in our careers. Volunteer activities typically involve working with groups as well. Sometimes, organizations provide formal team-building resources to help accelerate the development of productive teams. In other circumstances, groups are structured (or emerge) less formally and people are left on their own to manage group interactions and overcome any obstacles to collaboration.

Photo by Kevin Dooley, Flickr

Whether you’re being supported through a team-building process or striving to meld together a more organic cluster of co-workers, here’s a set of criteria you can draw on to evaluate how your group is doing.

Five Ways to Measure Team Function

The following five dimensions are adapted from the work of Dr. Hedley Dimock[1] on how to observe and evaluate groups.

  1. Climate: This dimension refers to the atmosphere, energy level, openness, etc. The climate is what we you immediately aware of when you enter a room where this group is meeting. In most groups you can quickly sense whether things are pleasant or unpleasant, comfortable or uncomfortable – or maybe somewhere in between. Over time, as a group evolves and solidifies, the climate should become more pleasant and comfortable.
  2. Involvement: This measure refers to the group’s level of self-direction, self-management, shared initiative, degree of commitment and motivation. Another way to think of involvement is the group’s ability to focus. A highly involved group may lose awareness of what’s happening around them or outside the room because they are so focused on the task at hand.
  3. Interaction: When observing for progress on this dimension, look for connections between individual group members and the overall connectedness of the group. Indicators of involvement include the level of rapport observed and the degree to which leadership is shared.
  4. Cohesion: Over time, an effective team will develop a sense of cohesion. The level of solidarity, commitment or togetherness experienced by the group reflects the degree of cohesion the group has achieved. In a highly cohesive group or team, members begin to think in terms of “we” rather than “I” and almost instinctively function as a unit.
  5. Productivity: When the four preceding dimensions are well-developed, a group typically becomes more productive. In observing for improvements in productivity, look for improved problem solving capacity, task completion, shared responsibility, and increased activity leading to measurable achievements.

Who Should Evaluate the Team?

In an ideal world, evaluating team development is the joint effort of everyone involved. In some cases, however, you might be an external observer (or manager) assessing the group. In either case, multiple observations over time are required to determine whether a particular group of people are becoming an effective team. Assuming your team is interested in their own development, the process would work as a form of debrief at the end of a working session.

Evaluating Team Development

Before jumping into evaluation, it’s important that everyone agree on the “rules of the tribe” to ensure safe and respectful dialogue. These ground rules might include; maintaining mutual respect, no personal attacks, being open and honest, focusing on the growth of the team, valuing everyone’s input, etc. Once the necessary guidelines have been set, members of the group can start sharing their observations. To mentally separate from the work session just completed, move to another room or to another part of the room.

Each member:

  • Take a few minutes to jot down a brief assessment of how the group functioned with respect to each of the five dimensions described above. These notes should be saved and used as reference points during future discussions.
  • Share and discuss what was observed in a general way and then zero in on each of the five dimensions.
  • Provide examples from group behavior to illustrate comments as they are shared.
  • Listen with an open mind and absorb what’s being shared.
  • Confirm commitment to work together to accomplish the objectives of the group.

As the group continues to work together and collectively evaluate their development as a team, progress along all five dimensions should begin to emerge.This process of consciously and collectively self-assessing group function typically leads to growth and improvement. Occasionally, things go sideways and a team fails to progress or becomes dysfunctional. When that happens a different approach is called for.

 

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[1] Dr. Hedley Dimock is the Director of the Centre for Human Resource Development, an independent consulting and research organization in Guelph, Ontario. 

7 Obstacles to Successful Delegation

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Image by Uwe Kils and Wiska Bodo, Wikimedia Commons In an earlier article we looked at When and How to Delegate. Delegation is an essential skill for all managers and leaders and seems fairly straight forward once it’s put in place. But planning to delegate and familiarizing yourself with the delegation process may not be enough to overcome some of the most common obstacles to successful delegation.  It doesn’t help that most of these obstacles are like icebergs – largely hidden below the surface. Be prepared. In order to master the fine art of delegation, …

When and How to Delegate

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Photo by kosmolaut, Flickr Theodore Roosevelt said: “The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” In one sentence he described the essence of delegation. A leader or manager is responsible for making sure certain things get done; not for doing everything personally. The most effective leaders don’t strive to be super-heroes. Rather they are exceptional at picking good people to do what they want and need done, and then letting them get …

Crisis Management

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The best leaders operate from a basis of planning and prevention bolstered by the agility and responsiveness that allows them to capitalize on unforeseen events and effectively manage crises. This combination of vision, preparedness and resilience fosters confidence in followers, in customers and (if applicable) among shareholders. Photo by János Pálinkás, Flickr According to Pearson and Clair, in their paper on Reframing Crisis Management, “An organizational crisis is a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability of the organization and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well …

How Not to Be Your Own Worst Enemy

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Most people enjoy lists. From Letterman’s top 10 to websites like listverse and list.ly that have turned the creation of lists into a business model—lists are everywhere.  The ubiquity of lists, especially numbered lists, has even resulted in parodies of list-making. Consider, XKCD’s stab at rewriting major 20th century headlines to get more clicks, by turning many of them into lists (e.g. 1920 - 17 Things That Will Be Outlawed Now That Women Can Vote!) Our apparent fondness for lists has also led researchers to investigate this phenomenon, with some interesting results. Not …

Recognizing Engagement

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The topic of employee engagement continues to make frequent appearances across the breadth of Human Resources communications channels. Everyone involved in the management of people (or involved in educating and informing those who manage people), has been dissecting employee engagement for the past couple of years. Even Dale Carnegie’s iconic book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," has been recast as a tool for building engagement. Throughout this extensive exploration of employee engagement, many questions (like these), continue to generate debate: What is employee engagement? Why does employee engagement matter? How does it differ from job satisfaction? …

When Should You Coach (or Be Coached)?

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Have you ever wondered what’s involved in coaching someone or being coached? Every work role involves training of some kind. When that training is less about learning the “what” of a job and more about understanding why a role matters, when to move forward, and how a position affects everything and everyone else in the organization, coaching makes sense. Photo by Deb Nystrom, Flickr Some of the more common reasons for coaching or being coached in the workplace include: Gaining clarity about vision and long term goals. Developing leadership skills and capacity. Improving job performance. Improving …

Worthwhile HR Reads of 2014

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A mass of information is produced every day about the people side of organizational management. In order to keep writing this blog, I read much of it.  Since organizations all dealing with many of the same issues, the content can be repetitive. Quite often, common sense is positioned as enlightenment.  Occasionally, something comes around that puts a new spin on an old problem, offers a unique perspective or proposes a different kind of solution. When that happens, reading is elevated from necessity to pleasure. Here are a few of my favorite HR (and HR related) reads from 2014. The …

The Bottom Line on Office Politics

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Photo by Meme Binge, Flickr What exactly are “office politics?” For many, the idea has become synonymous with deception, end-runs, sabotage and “kissing up”. If this describes the politics where you work, you’re probably dealing with a toxic work environment where politics alone are not the problem.   Every environment that contains more than one person will have its share of politics. People who move ahead in their organizations are typically adept at office politics. But that doesn’t mean they’re using the damaging tactics described above. In healthy organizations, a …

Are You Failing at Feedback?

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If you’ve ever watched children playing a game of Marco Polo in the swimming pool, you have a fundamental grasp of the power of feedback. With eyes closed, relying only on the voices of other players, the person who is “it” (Marco) must find and tag someone in the pool. Players respond by shouting “Polo” whenever Marco shouts out. These audio clues provide a stream of feedback that Marco follows until the goal of tagging another player is achieved. Without the feedback, Marco would flounder around the pool blindly with little opportunity to succeed. …

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The Latest from Workplace Tribes
How is Your Team Doing? January 30, 2015
7 Obstacles to Successful Delegation January 28, 2015
When and How to Delegate January 26, 2015
Crisis Management January 23, 2015
How Not to Be Your Own Worst Enemy January 21, 2015
 
Recognizing Engagement January 19, 2015
When Should You Coach (or Be Coached)? January 16, 2015
Worthwhile HR Reads of 2014 January 14, 2015
The Bottom Line on Office Politics January 12, 2015
Are You Failing at Feedback? January 09, 2015