As often noted, many companies choosing to utilize team concepts do so with the goal of sustaining and improving various operations within their organization. Successful enterprises also realize that through honing and expanding employee team strategies, the challenges of integrating organizational change can be better addressed, and any negative consequences or resistance to change can be reduced greatly.
Working as a team during training systematically guarantees success because everyone is encouraged to practice together and support one another. It is, in some form, built-in mentoring. When all team members under the direction of an engineering manager, supervisor, or team leader are learning new procedures together, the chances of transference and employee satisfaction dramatically increase.
In a group or team environment, employees are able to share their experiences, increase familiarity, and motivate each other across generational divides or cultural differences. These results are often difficult to obtain from webinars, prerecorded training, or canned presentations. The best starting point for team training is with a small group of employees that can work together and discuss or brainstorm resolutions to challenges. Of course, the objective should always be to equate training success with actual business performance.
A key point in maximizing training effectiveness is to ensure that team members remain actively involved in relevant learning—not sitting back passively. Active participation can be achieved through personal interaction, asking questions of the facilitator and each other, practice exercises, and self-defined activities such as selecting one or more aspects of the training for possible implementation in the work environment.
When developing team-building programs, a core set of elements must also be defined. These include such specifics as the theme of any exercises, the measurable objectives and achievable standards to be set, the relevant processes required, and a time frame for conducting exercises, whether an hour, a day, or several days. Equally important, all participants in team-building programs must understand the necessity for aligning their performance with the established overall performance goals and management systems of their company.
Additionally, it is a good idea to assign an individual to a team-building or training exercise to be solely responsible for keeping all participants updated with any relevant information. This will help guarantee continuity and smoothness among team participants during their training, especially if it is conducted over an extended period of time.
Nearly all team-building programs begin with simple problem-solving exercises. These can be fictitious scenarios, but they should have some applicability to actual workplace situations. They should also adhere to the same structural format, such as the following:
Clearly state the issue and why it is a problem;
Draft well-defined goals for addressing the problem, including the potential benefits for a successful resolution;
Identify and prioritize all barriers to the goals;
List the activities, methods, or approaches to be used in developing probable solutions to the problem; and
Define benchmarks for the measuring success of the team exercise.
A cooperative “buy-in” among all team members is a necessity before any activity commences, as this one element can derail any problem-solving exercise if overlooked. Assuming everyone’s cooperation is at hand, the team leader carries out the execution of the exercise, making sure that all team members are sharing an interactive role in the final outcome. Periodic checks should also be conducted to ensure that the exercise is kept on track, and that the defined problem is effectively resolved, or at the very least, progress is being made toward understanding the issue and addressing it.
Proper evaluation of job performance during any planned company change or transition requires constructive and timely feedback from individual employees on a regular basis. The same holds true for a team management system, and the most useful feedback comes from building team effectiveness. This process all begins with organizational leadership, focusing on five elements: vision, communicating the vision, trust and confidence, self-improvement, and challenges.
Effective team leadership begins with a company vision or reachable goal for employees, and that vision should encompass some facet of change that an organization is targeting. Several questions need to be answered while developing a team vision: What are the objectives in the change process? What is the blueprint for action? How is the strategy and performance evaluated? Team participation, involvement, and continually inviting feedback from every member will help answer these questions, but never assume that goals remain static. Visions and goals often require occasional updating.
Communicating a vision requires commitment, but it must always be on a one-to-one basis among team members—and in a comfortable or familiar environment to them. Team leaders should not be authoritative, but instead, listen. Use keywords and phrases to help create positive reinforcement and feedback. Questions such as “What can we do?” or “What do you think?” will go a long way toward instilling a continual feedback mechanism.
Moreover, managers and supervisors must avoid being lulled into thinking they are the only ones who evaluate. A team constantly evaluates its leader, and a team’s trust and confidence in its leader must be earned the old-fashioned way through hard work and dedication, not authoritative control. Earning a team’s respect will not happen until team members know that its leader means them no harm. In other words, a team needs participation from the leader, not another boss.
Finally, organizational leadership must keep in mind that no one wants to be on a team that is doing nothing; people want to be on a team that is reaching. When one challenging task has been successfully completed, those who contributed to the team’s success should be praised. Then the next challenging project should be created. The best ideas for new tasks usually originate from a company’s own employees or team members. Managers or supervisors should ask for suggestions to be e-mailed or submitted directly to them. One sure way to guarantee constant feedback is to personally acknowledge every comment, idea, or suggestion that is submitted, and then immediately request another.
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