Here’s how to get to know your team better

Written by David McLaughlin CMgr FCMI ChMC Monday 09 November 2020
Your team may be feeling low as lockdowns and social restrictions take force. It's time for some serious team analysis to help their motivation
Person on a phone screen's video call

As the UK faces myriad restrictions in coming months – with Wales just emerging from a fire-break, England in lockdown 2, and Scotland partway through a circuit-breaker – it’s no surprise that many employees are feeling demotivated or low. It’s an incredibly difficult time, and as a manager and leader it’s up to you to lead the way through this uncertainty. In a recent webinar, I talked about some ways you can motivate your team. It requires you to put on your thinking hat and really get in touch with your emotional intelligence and empathy, but the end results are completely worth it. Let’s go through some team analysis techniques which can help you unlock your staff’s motivations and help you keep spirits up over the coming difficult period.

Who are your team?

Ask yourself, “Who are my team?” Think about what you really know about them, including individual personalities and working styles, what they bring to the table and where the pressure points are. Think about the vision, missions and goals of the team as well as any silos and choke points that impact the flow and information-sharing. Write down the strengths and weaknesses within the team – now is a great opportunity to build a team CV so you can visualise where any pitfalls are. There are two notable models to go through created by Bruce Tuckman and R Meredith Belbin that can help you with this analysis.

Bruce Tuckman’s model illustrates how the team progresses through the defined stage to become a high-performing unit that can function independently of the facilitator. As the ability of the team increases, the leader adapts their style of leadership in line with each stage of maturation.

The stages are:

  • forming, which covers the orientation phase where roles and responsibilities are largely undefined and they rely on the leader for guidance
  • storming, where roles and responsibilities are more defined but power struggles and conflict arises as team members try to find their footing
  • norming, where roles are concrete and the team is united, committed and trust each other
  • performing, where the leader can take a step back as the team gains autonomy, and the team is aligned through strategic goals.

After studying teams at Henley Management College, R Meredith Belbin identified nine roles or characteristics of individuals participating in successful teams. Belbin’s team roles model helps us to look at how the different roles in the team fit together defined by nine ‘roles’, each with characteristics and weaknesses:

  • Plant, defined as a creative problem-solver who can be a poor communicator
  • Resource Investigator, a skilled communicator and network-builder who can be overly optimistic
  • Coordinator, who is a good project manager and goal-setter who can be controlling
  • Shaper, who focuses on practical steps and solutions but who can be provocative
  • Monitor/Evaluator, an analytical risk-assessor but who can lack inspiration or follow-through
  • Team worker, a cooperative team-player who can be indecisive
  • Implementor, an organised and reliable individual across all tasks but one that can be inflexible
  • Completer/Finisher, who can be relied upon for high standards in short time-frames but can be reluctant to delegate
  • Specialist, an expert in a defined area and professional standards but can prioritise dedication to this area over progress of the team.

What's your team doing?

This may sound obvious, but it’s worth doing: think about how your team is spending its time, what projects are ongoing or upcoming, and what the goals are for your team over the coming months? Take full stock of where you are and where the priorities lie. Having an overview such as this will enable you to spot areas where support is needed and to see who’s excelling and deserves praise. If you asked someone right now what your team is trying to achieve, would they be able to answer? Would you?

You also need to think about intrinsic motivation of your team members: why do they do what they do? What gets them out of bed every day and to work? It’s not always about money – sometimes it’s just about recognition. We need to recognise both their achievements to congratulate them and recognise their struggles to provide support.

Don't just talk

As a manager you are relied upon to share information above and below you – but are you really making yourself understood? This can help to motivate your team as through clarification and mutual understanding you’re further embedding them into the team and making sure they don’t feel isolated or confused.

We need to keep everyone informed with both the good and the bad (not all communication is about good news!) and not keep them in the dark. When you don’t tell your team important news, they will fill in the gaps and they could assume the worst. Don’t withhold information, especially during the pandemic when so much is up in the air and uncertainty creeps into every facet of work. Equally, you can’t only listen to the good stuff – you have to listen (and listen out for) the bad goings-on. Active listening is key here, as sometimes you may need to read between the lines of what someone is saying to find out what they really mean or how they’re feeling.

As a manager, and especially during a period of remote working as we’re in, you need to make time to speak to your team every day. It needn’t be long – check-ins are fine – but you need to reinforce the lines of communication. Ask how they’re doing, both in and outside of work, how their projects are going, and how you can help them.

Develop your people

We know that when you invest in individuals through training, their motivation increases. One pitfall to avoid is ‘sheep dipping’ – where you make everyone in the team go on one course as part of a training plan. It not only may not be relevant for some team members, but they may already know it and become demotivated by you not appreciating their skillset. If you’re doing well at a part of your job and your manager makes you go to a training course that just rehashes what you already know, how would you feel? You need to be able to have a goal that the training can help you accomplish – this is where your team CV will come in useful. If you have an upcoming project that requires a specific skill that your team doesn’t have, a training course will be useful in providing that skill. Don’t just look at development as a box-ticking exercise; it must be an experience that will benefit your team’s experience at your organisation and help them fulfil their duties.

You can watch this webinar in full here. Why not check out our full virtual events line-up?

You can also find out more about the models we go through on ManagementDirect. CMI members get exclusive access to this platform. Log in to the platform here – or find out more about CMI membership to get full access.

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