May 2017


It's all in the team...

As the chair of Leadership Boards, and a Business Coach, I work with directors of businesses across all industries and hear their challenges first hand. And always close to the top of the list are people issues – whether it is attracting and retaining top talent or dealing with problem staff.

You’ve heard it all before - so why is it so hard to get right? Perhaps because we are all human – unpredictable, unique with individual strengths and often hidden potential.

We all know that machines, computers and cars need regular maintenance, repair, re-calibration and continuous improvement. We even update the software on our phones. So what about our teams? 

People come in all shapes and sizes and so do their personalities and behaviours. Whether nature or nurture, we are all a complex mix of behaviours and habits with individual strengths. But those strengths can become weaknesses…

Just as one man’s meat is another man’s poison, so one person’s strength can be a source of frustration to another. To cite an example, a team member who is methodical and precise can become frustrated by a team member who is keen to make decisions quickly. 

Tensions and niggles between team members can, if left unchecked, escalate quickly, having a huge and indirect impact on results. Niggles arise where there is a lack of understanding about the importance of diversity within a team. Individuals who understand themselves well are one step closer to understanding the impact they have on others - and two steps away from understanding the ‘otherness of others’!  One more step and they can adapt to the different style of others, respecting their preferences for decision-making, social interaction and ways of interpreting information.

You may be familiar with the phrase ‘nobody’s perfect, but a team can be!’  A highly performing team will have a blend of talent and there will be a palpable respect for the part that each team member plays. This blend of talent and palpable respect does not happen by accident. It takes understanding, nurturing and monitoring – just like your machinery, cars, computers and phone.

Once your team is working well together, you can then focus on becoming a high-performing team. We are now talking peak performance; moving from good to great – that extra and often elusive 15%.

Csikszentmihalyi, the Hungarian psychologist, coined the phrase ‘flow’ which is a state known to many as ‘being in the zone.’  When sports teams are in flow, they are untouchable, fluid and working as a unit. The ingredients necessary to achieve flow are high levels of skill combined with a high degree of challenge.

So, if you want your teams to be performing at their best, you need to provide them with not just the necessary skills but also high levels of challenge - and this is where the difficulty arises.

Some people thrive on pressure. For others that same level is too high and causes stress. The only way to know what is right for the individual and right for the team is to understand each person better and the part they play toward achieving the company goals.

I work with teams using psychometric profiles as a critical tool to gaining greater understanding and awareness of each other’s strengths and how to work together, both within the team and also with other departments inside or outside the company. The results last long after the workshops - and are evident in the bottom line.

So however much time and thought and energy you pour into your business planning and strategy and attracting customers, always remember - it's all delivered by your team. Are your people all pulling together in the right direction? Or are there niggles in the team or across different teams? What are you doing to oil the wheels of productivity?

Every member of your skilled labour force is unique. Their uniqueness can be the spark that ignites the whole business. Or it could be snuffer that extinguishes the fire.

Get the team right and performing to its max and you are a long way to success..

Liz is the founder and director of Growth Plans Ltd  As a Chartered Accountant and Qualified Business Coach and Licensed Practitioner of Insights Discovery, she works with Directors to help them grow their potential and that of their businesses, through coaching, Leadership Boards, psychometric profiling, strategy reviews and workshops.


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