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At the heart of establishing your team’s way of working is creating a supportive and encouraging environment where each individual team member feels heard and is given the opportunity to co-create the rules of engagement with their team members.

When I first started managing a team I had no idea what to do. What made the experience even more challenging was that the first team I managed was a team of peers. And most of them were older than me. I was a member of the team one day, and the manager the next!  Over time I got better at managing teams and eventually went on to be trained in delivering Diageo’s High Performance Coaching training. By the time I left Diageo after my 11 year tenure, I led a team of 6 Trade Marketing and Event Professionals, who were identified as the highest performing Trade Marketing team across Australia.

I got my first grey hairs when I managed my first team. It was SO hard. There was so much ego, expectation and ‘shoulds’ involved in this new responsibility. If you’ve just taken on a new team or a new role where you are managing a team, it is my hope that this article helps you navigate this better than I first did.  Without establishing an effective way of working with your team, individuals can focus on the wrong objectives and may not perform at their true potential, which is not a productive, constructive or particularly fun way to work.

So let’s get you set up for success!

Establish the Rules of Engagement

I love the idea of journeys and road maps and believe that when co-creation and collaboration is part of the equation, great results can be achieved. What’s most important is that you have ‘rules of engagement’ that form a game plan that your team has openly discussed, agreed upon and is based on each team member’s preferred communication style.

Unlocking your team’s potential involves understanding your team member’s informal roles (beyond their role descriptions, technical duties or job tasks). Dr Meredith Belbin, who studied team-work for many years, famously observed that people in teams tend to assume different “team roles.” He defined a team role as “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” and named 9 such team roles that underlie team success. You can explore these roles further here.

When establishing the rules of engagement for your team, the sorts of questions you may like to ask, discuss and answer together are:

  • How often do we need to meet face to face? As a group, 1:1, in smaller groups.
  • What do we want to talk about when we meet?
  • Who leads the team meetings? Can we rotate the chair and roles during each meeting?
  • How do we share information online? What are the protocols?
  • How do we measure success?
  • How do we like to give and receive feedback?
  • What are our previous experiences working with teams and what’s worked well?
  • What are some of the mistakes we’ve seen in previous teams that we’d like to avoid?
  • What’s important information we need to know about each other?
  • What are our individual communication preferences?
  • What else do we need to consider?

It is most likely the team leader’s responsibility to facilitate these sessions and ensure the outcomes are agreed, documented and followed through. Shared responsibilities for bringing this to life will help each team member engage in this approach. Consistency and doing what each of you said you would do is also a key ingredient in the success of how your team forms, storms and performs!

Monitor, Discuss, Learn & Adapt

As time passes and the needs of your team and the expected outputs of your team change, you will need to monitor and discuss how well your way of working is serving your individual and group needs.

  • Do the meeting times and formats still work?
  • Are there new team members who have suggestions for doing things differently and better?
  • Are you providing forums for the team to work remotely? And so on.

The success of your team’s way of working is dependent on how well you communicate with each other. Your focus should be on developing an effective, motivating and consistent approach that balances the needs of you, the team and the individual team members.

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