What is a team?

In my blog I have written quite a bit about how I have been trying to transform my team into a ‘great team’. But one of the questions I keep asking myself is:

what is a team?

At its most basic, a team is a group of individuals being placed together in an organisation to deliver a specific set of tasks

And, quite honestly, that is how my team has felt at several points during my time with them. We were a group of individuals who were put together following an organisational restructure to complete a specific set of tasks. 

We had been physically located around a set of desks within an office. We had a reporting line established within the team. And we had a set of tasks and responsibilities set out in the restructure document for us to complete.

It was then up to us to define what our team looked like, how it felt, what the culture was, and what our team was about.

And this is where it went wrong.

As the manager of the team I should have been more proactive in working with the team to set us off on the right footing. Instead, I let the time drift away and so we as a team drifted on. We never took ownership of the work. We never set out who we were. We never set out what we were about. We never set out what type of team we wanted to be.

And this is the biggest regret that I have whilst working within the team.

At the same time I wasn’t putting 100% of myself in the team. I was looking to leave. I was struggling to balance work and life with three young children. I was struggling to work out who I was within the team. I had lost my purpose.

And this was having a significant impact on my team. And it was having a significant impact on me.

And I realised that this just had to change.

Great teams are just groups of individuals being placed together in an organisation to complete a specific set of tasks. Great teams work hard at the habits that make them a great team. They have a clear purpose. They understand themselves. They work hard at being a great team.

And that what u had to do. I had to work harder at being the leader of the team to help us become a great team. So I created a simple plan of action to help me change me, so that we can move towards becoming a ‘great team’.

Action 1: Be a better me

I knew that for the team to move forward I needed to be a better leader. I needed to bring the whole of myself into the team. I needed to be a better me. And I had to see this as my team. 

But before I could be a better leader, I had to earn the trust and respect of the team. I had to show them that they can believe in me. I had to give some of me to them so that they would buy into me as a leader. What I needed to do is brilliantly summed up by the passionate Simon Sinek in this video, Why Leaders Eat Last, from a 99u event:

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last from 99U on Vimeo.

I needed to eat last in my team. I had to put them first. I had to become a leader of our team.

But before I could do that, I had to give our team an identify. 

Action 2: Give us an identity 

One of the things that dawned on me during this time was that the team didn’t have an identity. We were still just a group of individuals within a much larger team.

So that had to change.

I worked with the team to give our team a name. Something that pulled the different parts of the team together, was easy to remember, and said what we did on the tin. 

Under this name we had a shared identity. We had a shared belonging. We had an identifiable team. We started to use this in all our work. 

Now we had an identity, we needed a better environment.

Action 3: Create the right enviornment 

One of the responsibilities of a leader is to create an environment where others thrive, where the individual members of the team are supported to do better, and where the team members trust that their leader ‘has their back’.

These quotes from Simon Sinek have guided me as I have been working to create the right environment in my team:

I needed to set the right environment. I needed to empower and support the team. I needed to own our work. I needed to lead the team.

I needed to be a better leader. I needed to aim high for the team. I needed to lead my team to becoming a ‘great team’.

But, before we could do that, we needed to understand why we were there. What was our role in the organisation? How did we add value? What was our purpose?

So, we set about understanding and identifying ourselves better with the help of the Teamworks tool from SYPartners.

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