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.

The 3 habits of great teams

As part of my inspiration building research into all things SYPartners, one of the videos I found really did connect with me. 

The video by the SYPartners chairman and founder, Keith Yamashita, was 20 minutes of pure gold dust.

In the video – The 3 Habits of Great Creative Teams – shot at the annual 99u Conference [more about them in a later post!] Keith expands on his ‘great teams’ quote by talking about the key elements that make up ‘great teams’. 

Keith Yamashita: The 3 Habits of Great Creative Teams from 99U on Vimeo.

Here’s a summary of the video:

When the your team is faced with adversity does it stand strong and act boldly or does it crumble under pressure? Based on his work with over 1000 teams, Keith Yamashita shares his insights about great collaborative environments including: have an awareness beyond your day-to-day, respect the unique talents of your team members, and actively cultivate meaningful one-on-one relationship

What did I take from the video? 

Increased belief that what I was fighting for was worth it. An even bigger love towards the power of understanding our individual Superpowers [including a massive desire to get a copy of those cards!!]. And a different way of sharing this message with the team. 

So, I sent a link to this video to the members of my team and asked them to watch, to think about the messages in there, and to think about what we need to do differently to become a great team. 

We now had a basis for discussions – both at a team level and at the individual level.

These discussions then led me to an interesting discovery. Although everybody in the team knew that they were part of a small team within a bigger team, when chatting with them, on a one-to-one basis, they all didn’t seem to (a) understand how their role & tasks fitted in with the purpose of the team, and (b) see any connection between their role & tasks and the role & tasks of their peers. 

And that had to change.

So I set about improving that understanding and bringing the different parts of the team together around a shared purpose and vision. And who would have guessed it, there was a new source of inspiration to help me with that. 

This is when I found a new blog of advice, support and ideas for people just a like me – a manager who wants to manage better and make their team better. What was that blog? It was another SYPartners product – called Teamworks.

Find out how I started to use this advice in my next blog.