18 Oct 2018
133. YOUR SUPPORT TEAM
How successful you are in developing your team will depend in part on how well you work with your support team.
Words: Mark Procter
To realise your potential as a leader you need a highly effective team around you. But it takes skilled leadership to build a great support team and create an environment in which they can perform at their best.
When looking to fill a vacancy in your support team or to add expertise in a specialist area, relevant experience and qualifications will, of course, be high on the agenda. It’s important, however, to consider not only the competencies that you’re used to, but also any skills and areas of knowledge that might enhance and complement those already in the team.
Perhaps there is a new approach or technique that you’d like to explore and where first-hand insight would be invaluable, or might the team benefit from the input of someone who has worked abroad or gained experience in a different field altogether?
INSIDERS VERSUS OUTSIDERS
When you start a new role, you may have the chance to bring members of your previous team with you to the organisation. Bringing someone with you to a new job may, however, not be possible, nor will it always be the best solution. When you surround yourself with people who are similar to yourself and who think in the same way, it can stall innovation and mean you’re less challenged on decisions.
Having a support team who know the organisation can also have considerable advantages. The existing staff may be able to help you acclimatise more quickly to the organisational culture, to introduce you to those within and affiliated with the group, and to help diagnose what problems or barriers might be holding progress back.
It’s worth remembering that even if you don’t bring long-standing members of your team with you to a role, it can be helpful to have additional support from mentors or trusted advisers who are external to the organisation.
AN EFFECTIVE TEAM FRAMEWORK
Once you have built a highly skilled support team, you’ll need to ensure you are all working as effectively as possible, both as individuals and as a group. Great teams have commonality of purpose, but inter-dependency when working, so as a leader you must create a shared ‘mental map’ for the team, a framework within which each member can perform.
For a team to function at its best there must be a clear goal that everyone can work towards together. Start with a short-term goal and then think about how that will create the foundation for achieving your medium and long-term objectives. Each individual in your team should also have their own goals and, importantly, understand how these feed into the objectives of the team.
The team’s purpose must also be clear. Why does it exist and what value is leveraged in the organisation from working well together? Discussion around this topic is often neglected, but is important, as it helps to bring the team together to deliver its goals.
The next thing to consider are the roles within the team, not only the functional jobs and day-to-day responsibilities that you will have determined prior to someone’s recruitment, but also their informal roles. These might include trusted advisers and implementers who are great at putting talk into action. Such roles, once understood, can be particularly helpful during meetings or group activities, when their strengths can be put to good use. Perhaps, for example, someone is best at chairing and another is good at capturing meeting actions. These roles can be rotated, but all are essential to the effective management of a team meeting.
Finally, there is the importance of agreed processes within the team, because team members need to be moving towards a set of norms for how it will operate. These processes include things like ground rules, decision making and problem solving, and monitoring. Setting some basic ground rules, such as use of mobile phones, punctuality and dress, can go a long way. Think about how team members will share progress and how often, and what will be the frequency, formality and function of monitoring.