No matter where you work these days, you are likely to be part of a team. Many of us also lead teams as our careers progress. But is it always necessary to work in teams? How can team leaders improve the effectiveness of their teams? MDF expert Jan Kuyper, MDF senior trainer/consultant shares insights he gained when advising a Dutch NGO in their team development.
Jan Kuyper: “A Dutch NGO, working internationally, asked me to review their team procedures. To serve their local partners more effectively, they had established horizontal teams. However, very quickly, team members started complaining about the many meetings, rigidity of the procedures, and increased workload. These teams needed to reflect on the ingredients for an effective team.”
- People in teams need well-defined and achievable team goals with reachable targets. “In this particular case, the new team set-up resulted in additional work. Some team members did not consider these extra tasks part of their usual responsibilities. Always check whether the individual team members feel that is it possible to reach the goals set and whether it is in line with their existing tasks and responsibilities.”
- Clear working procedures, communication and tasks are the second ingredient. “This does not mean the procedures should be strict. For this Dutch NGO, flexibility was very important. Since the project contexts varied greatly, the procedures needed to be focused on steering and the broad lines rather than following step-by-step procedures”.
- A final component of a winning team lies within the capabilities of each team member. “Team members need to feel that their potential is used to the maximum and the procedures fit their professional competency and working context. Pay attention to the personal growth of your team members. To achieve this, consider rotating tasks and responsibilities within your team. Ensure each team member gets the opportunity to facilitate meetings, travel and write reports.”
“Team members felt overwhelmed and pressured by the new procedures. They did not see the added value of the newly formulated teams. As a good team member, reflect on three key questions:
- Am I motivated to be part of this team? Do I recognise the shared goal of this team?
- Do I set my own priorities right?
- Can I delegate some of my work or rotate some of my responsibilities?
“Working in teams is only effective if the added value is clear. What I learned from this case is that people can quickly become frustrated if they do not see how they contribute to the goals set. Make sure it is clear to you what you can add and what you can gain from being part of the team.”