If you observe several of these behaviours in different members of your team on a regular basis, they may be clues that performance isn’t optimal (to put it very mildly). Any of these signs look familiar?
- Incessant challenges on ‘how things get done around here’, from a few good ideas to nit-picking nonsense.
- Not wanting to join in.
- Sulking and cries of ‘it’s not fair!’
- Throwing toys. Or phones. Or items of office furniture. Throwing anything.
- Shyness where little has been observed before.
- Loudness where this hasn’t been heard from that individual before.
- Saying ‘but why should I?’
- In-fighting and picking on individuals.
OK, so throwing toys might have given the game away, but I’ll bet you were already getting the picture. These eight signs aren’t exactly the hallmarks of maturity. They can often be seen in the most junior school playgrounds. The behaviours are childish and immature. On a good day at work, some playfulness and banter may help things along. But on a constant daily basis, and when the behaviour is self-centred, it can be disruptive and toxic for teams.
As with individuals, so with teams of them – they develop over time. However a group of people may not develop at the same rate, and in all the same ways. What’s more, the composition of teams can change – which means the development process kicks off (sometimes literally) all over again.
So is it simply a case of letting time take its course? That might be a risky strategy.
Teams can get stuck at the initial childish stage and just carry on fighting. Some will opt out – leave. Playground bullies and their allies will emerge, as people strive to claim their place in the group. The team won’t perform well and risks making a serious mistake and/or being outflanked by more mature competition. You may have noticed this in your favourite team at the weekend.
What’s a team leader to do? Try a team tune-up
There’s heaps you can do to get your team on the path to greater maturity and improved performance. A team tune-up can accelerate the shift.
- Gather the group together. It can be in the workplace or somewhere off-site, but please, no alcohol.
- Take an active role in the early stages of the tune-up, providing the structure and playing a more dominant role than you might normally take with this team.
- Clarify the purpose of the team. Why has it been formed? What purpose does it serve? This one’s easy for sports teams, but often much less clear for work teams. If the purpose is clear but there seems to be a big gap between that and the day-to-day, then identify projects and their purpose.
- Clarify each individual’s role. It can be illuminating to let people first state what they believe the key results of their role are. When working with senior managers I’ve often heard a few surprised murmurs of ‘really?’ when these self-penned ‘deliverables’ have gone up around the room. Collectively check that individual roles and results are aligned to the team’s purpose.
- Agree how you’re going to behave as a team. Allow everyone to contribute to ground-rules – if you’re the team leader use your casting vote if necessary. Agree how you will deal with those who break the ground-rules.
- Collectively commit to absolute accountability. Gosh, how grown up.
Team tune-ups are simply good house-keeping on an on-going basis; at the temper tantrum stage they can be transformative.
Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.