Trying to build a cohesive team can feel like a puzzle sometimes. You have the pieces – a goal, the time frame, the people, and maybe even the idea of a plan. But how do you, as a leader, put them all together to create the whole picture: a group that works effectively together to achieve objectives?
According to Bruce Tuckman’s initial model of group development, teams become cohesive in four stages:
This is the ideal progress of a small group, leading to the successful achievement of a goal, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Without strong leadership, a team could get stuck in the early phases and never make it to Performing. There can be imbalances, inefficiencies, setbacks, and derailments. You, the leader, are vital to facilitating your small group through the phases – without taking over – and helping them become a cohesive, self-sufficient team.
Steps to helping your team succeed:
In the earliest phases of team development, you need people to understand their purpose and mission. What are they doing here and what do you expect from them? While the plan might not be specific in the beginning, the goal needs to be. Make sure you are clear from the start about expectations, timelines, and what’s at stake – the benefits of success to the individual/team.
Your team is going to need your time and resources the most in the beginning stages. They need to know you’ll be there, you’ll follow through on your promises, and their concerns are a priority to you. Not following through here not only hampers trust, but it models untrustworthiness. What they see is what you’ll get.
Being clear, listening, and responding with specific information is key during all phases of team building. Say it out loud, and back it up in writing. Make sure they understand what you’re saying. Make sure you understand what they’re saying. You’re busy, for sure, but being available to hear people’s questions and concerns is critical. Most problems are caused by a lack of communication.
Effective collaboration doesn’t really start until the Norming and Performing stages. Individual group members are focused on themselves in the beginning – making sure they’re treated fairly, not being expected to do more than others, or not being relegated to the background. Each team member needs to understand the importance of all the roles, not just their own. Your own role at this point is to help everyone shine, to help build trust among the team members.
Once people are collaborating (Norming and Performing), you need to step back. Consider yourself a resource to the team. Each member should now be able to solve problems and work through conflicts and challenges on their own. Be available to offer information but avoid stepping in to fix things. Encourage self-sufficiency.
It’s important to have a plan when undertaking any new project, team initiative or goal; otherwise, you’re just going to be spinning your wheels. The plans need to be flexible, though. Resources, guidelines, liabilities, and abilities are going to change as the team starts performing. Everyone will need to accept that adjustments are going to be needed. Knowing what is critical to complete as you go along will help your team regroup when plans change. Make a priority checklist, and follow up on it.
The larger the team or the longer term the goal, the more likely it is for some people to take on too much and others to fade into the background. You might have team members who notice when someone else has dropped the ball and pick it up. Some of that is great, especially if it’s reciprocated. If it happens too often, though, and it’s always the same one or two people picking up the ball, resentment can build, and performance can stall.
There needs to be accountability both for individual and team accomplishments. At meetings, confirm the promised steps were taken. If not, find out why not. Keep an ear out for discussions that need to be held one on one with the team member. Calling someone out in public is not the same as accountability. Get an agreement to make up the lost time or missing part. Accountability helps everyone.
No one leader is going to be comfortable with each of these stages. If you’re the type of person who excels at building consensus and creating team harmony, you might not love dealing with accountability and conflict. If you’re great at seeing the big picture, you might not always consider all the necessary details to get started. If you are a detailed planner, letting go so the team can perform independently might make you nervous. You’re human; some things are going to be harder than others. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t need a team – you’d need clones!
Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses can help you move through these team building steps. Just because something isn’t easy for you, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Omnia can help! We have Leadership Reports designed specifically for helping you leverage your strengths and minimize challenge areas for you personally. We can help you understand the specific needs of each of your team members, with the (professional development reports? Or is there a better option?) If you want to take a deeper dive into how your team can excel in the long run, we offer Team Development Reports. These reports analyze the behavioral traits of each team member and compare how they communicate and work together as well as how you, as a leader, can leverage strengths and mitigate difficulties.
When you put all these pieces together, you will build a successfully performing team. You can do it, and your Omnia Client Success team is on hand to help!
The turkey is carved, and you’re about to take your first decadent bite of apple sausage stuffing when your uncle asks, “So, how’s the job going?” All of a sudden, fork in midair, you feel a pit in your stomach and forget about the 4 glorious days off ahead of you. You inform Uncle Dale that you’ll have a new boss starting Monday. On the other side of town, another family is sitting down to their meal talking about how hard it was getting out of bed for the Turkey Trot again this year and dreaming of the day the Detroit Lions will finally shift the trajectory of their Thanksgiving game-day record. But one person at the table is oddly silent this year. All she can think about is starting that new leadership position on Monday.
Getting a new leader and taking over a new team is hard for everyone involved. The team members are worried about changes in their compensation, their responsibilities, their territories, and having to prove themselves all over again. The new leader is worried about whether they made the right decision and how quickly they can make an impact and prove it was the right choice for all concerned.
I’ve been in both seats of that holiday dinner over the years - thinking about a new boss starting or about taking on a new team. Having been on both sides of the equation many times, I’ve experienced what works well and what doesn’t. In this blog, I’ll share 6 strategies for engaging your new team members quickly and easing the concerns of all parties.
Priority #1 as a new leader is to get to know everyone on your team. Make this the first thing you do before spending too much time with your own boss and other leaders. Everyone will have opinions and share advice on what you need to do. There will be plenty of time for that, but you need to understand your team quickly and key in on what matters to them. Set up 1x1’s with everyone on your team asking them to share:
These personal 1x1’s will go a long way in engaging your team and setting the tone for the culture you intend to build. Data shows that employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work.
Take copious notes in these interviews; don’t lose them. I reference these meeting notes for annual goal setting, performance reviews, and any difficult conversations that might follow.
Let’s face it, it’s lonely at the top; it can also be very competitive. In between 1x1’s with your team, it’s important to get to know your peers. In these early days, it’s critical to uncover what’s top of mind to them, what problems they’re hoping you’re going to help solve, and what’s gotten in the way of getting things done in the past. During the first 90 days, you learn quickly who is going to be your confidant and who you may need to look out for. Who you may need to look out for, you ask? I know it sounds ugly, but it’s the truth and it only takes being burned once or twice to figure that out. Making peer connections will help you build trusting relationships, guard yourself from potential landmines, and determine how to get on a path to quick success collaboratively.
No matter what function you run, you need to know how money gets made, how you win business, and how you lose it. This takes time, but make it a priority along with getting to know your team and peers. Take this course of action for client insights:
Establishing early wins comes up in every book ever written for new leaders. It may sound cliché at this point, but the power of it can’t be overstated. What you get done and how soon you get to it has a real impact, especially if you’re taking action on something that people have wanted fixed for a long time. Is there some low hanging fruit – like relaxing the office dress code? (Yes! That’s still a thing in some places). What about adding a holiday or an extended long weekend to the summer schedule, moving someone from part-time to full-time, or allowing for job sharing models? These little steps go a long way in showing your commitment to a better culture.
Other wins should focus on impacting productivity and employee engagement – consider what processes need immediate streamlining and what kind of data people want. All these ideas should come directly from your 1x1 meetings and client analysis, and credit should be given to the person who raised the idea (if they are OK with that). We’ve all experienced new leaders who come in talking about how awesome it was at their last company, pointing fingers at things they think are broken in your organization without fully understanding why the process was put in place to begin with. You will have plenty of opportunities to make an impact and drive results. Early wins should come from what you’ve heard is most important to the team.
It won’t take long before people start asking what you plan to change. Communicating your vision and establishing short- and long-term goals is the last step of engaging as a new leader. Don’t do this too soon; it should come after the first 3 steps of getting to know your team, your peers, and your clients. This builds your short- and long-term goals. Your vision for the team, the function, or the company (depending on your level) should incorporate all the information you’ve gathered. You may be building a case for change or what some may consider disruption, so showing where the data came from makes the goals easier to buy into.
Include the following in your communications:
Following the vision and goal setting, immediately start putting things into action and productively engaging everyone on the team. Begin regular team meetings and 1x1 check-ins with your team. At monthly team meetings or town halls, review the goals and progress with updates on key objectives. Include visuals and dashboards so that everyone can see the progress you’re making as well as help spot trends and potential issues that need to be addressed.
As a leader, you are likely to outlast most of your team members. A recent report by The Bridge Group shows average sales rep tenure sits at 1.5 years. It’s likely your team is churning as quickly as you’re getting into objective setting, and that has a constant effect on your team dynamics and your ability to reach your goals. Conducting the same 1x1 type interviews you did when you were new works just as well at mid-year check points with just a slight adjustment to your questions.
Putting each of these strategies in place throughout your tenure will help you successfully engage your team and make a continual impact at work. Imagine how good it will feel knowing that, next Thanksgiving, Uncle Dale is going to hear how much your team member respects and appreciates their new boss. So sit back, take that bite of apple sausage stuffing, and enjoy the holidays because you have a plan for your new role. As for me, I’m going back to dreaming of a Lions win.
The easiest time I’ve ever had taking on a new leadership role was when I joined The Omnia Group. Given that we specialize in behavioral insight, I had immediate, powerful data into the make-up of my team. The Omnia Professional Development report provides details on the traits of each team member, such as level of assertiveness, communication preferences, pace and need for structure. I keep my team dynamics report handy so I can quickly reference the personal motivators and demotivators of each member of my team. Please contact me if you’re interested in learning more about how these resources can help you engage your new team and get off to the right start.
Camp Omnia is our little way of paying homage to summer rituals while we continue adulting. In this week’s blog, and as part of our Camp Omnia series, we’re going to earn our Positive Team Dynamics badge.
Even if they are working from home, completing most of their activities independently, your employees don’t generally work in total isolation. They make contributions for the greater good of the company and participate in a variety of cross-functional teams. The effectiveness of those teams ultimately determines the success of the organization. The Team Leader is responsible for managing the team’s dynamics to create and sustain a high-performing team that thrives in a positive, productive climate.
Before we get into the strategy of team dynamics, let’s pinpoint what the term means. Team dynamics are the emotions and energies that flow between team members. Put simply, they’re an indication of how well the team gets along and performs together.
People are the heartbeat of an organization, and how they perform in teams determines whether the rhythm is strong or erratic. If negative team dynamics plague your group, your employees could spend more time arguing and finger-pointing than getting things done. Morale will be low, turnover will be high, and productivity (and profits) will take a nosedive.
On the other hand, if your group exhibits positive team dynamics, your employees will be mission-focused and collaborative. They’ll understand one another, accept each other (at least enough to get the job done), and work well together. Morale will be much higher, turnover will be much lower, and productivity will be poised to reach new heights.
Team diversity is a powerful asset, but you must know how to guide members to function as a cohesive unit, each one playing a pivotal role and contributing their unique talents. So, how do you develop and foster positive team dynamics at your company? It starts with building a solid group from the get-go.
If you hire the right people for each position who align to the kind of company culture you want to cultivate, it will be much easier to get employees to gel. Each team member will be set up to succeed, which reduces stress and conflict. Plus, everyone will be on board with the firm’s mission, vision, and values, which should mean smoother interactions and better collaboration.
Once your dream team is in place, you need to fully utilize each member’s strengths, understand what motivates them, and learn how they like to be recognized. As a leader, you must be adaptable because no two employees are the same. Some will need regular supervision, public recognition, and monetary rewards to stay on track. Others will prefer autonomy, private praise, and other perks to remain satisfied. If each member is content, the group is more likely to have a positive team dynamic.
In addition to meeting your team’s needs, it’s your responsibility to guide them to achievement. Involve each member in the goal-setting process - both for their own professional development and department and company-wide objectives. Doing so will increase engagement and a sense of ownership of the work, strengthening the team’s focus on hitting their targets.
And key tip here: The best goals follow the guideline of being SMART goals. They’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Whenever two or more people are gathered, differences of opinion are likely to ensue at some point. Despite your best efforts to help team members understand one another, put their differences aside, and work in harmony, conflicts will arise. Conflict is a natural part of work (and life), and if managed properly, can result in growth. Without different thoughts and approaches, innovation can’t thrive. However, if left to fester, conflict can destroy your team and derail progress. To resolve these issues within your group, follow these best practices:
Stay calm and help your employees stay on an even keel, too. Conflict can cause intense emotions that get in the way of productive conversations.
Remember, your role is to facilitate the mediation process. Your team members need to actually implement the resolution and follow through with it over time. Minimize your involvement in getting directly involved where possible. Your team won’t thrive if everyone comes to you to handle the complaints or solve the problem. If needed, develop your team with skills on giving feedback in a productive way that leads to improved communication and conflict resolution.
Let’s review a little. Fostering positive team dynamics starts with the individual team members. Start by hiring the right people and knowing how to motivate, manage, and recognize them. Gauging a potential employee’s strengths from an interview or understanding how to lead each worker from observation can be very challenging. Omnia can help.
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In organizations, we celebrate the sales team for bringing new business to the firm. After all, a company can’t survive for long without revenue. But, on the other side of many org charts sits the isolated, often forgotten, customer service team. This department is usually regarded as a cost center, rather than a company asset.
If you’re considering customer service as a money pit, think again. According to American Express, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company. Quality customer support is imperative for sales.
If your company sees service as a weight, you’re likely leaving revenue on the table and alienating customers. Invesp notes that investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. In fact, in 2019 nine percent of American consumers switched companies due to poor customer service, says New Voice Media.
For best results, both sales and service need to work in tandem to provide the best-in-class experience your customers deserve. Let’s explore how to foster a winning dynamic between the two teams.
Before we dive into strategy, let’s examine the true significance of your company’s customer service department. Although the perception often is that this team exists solely to put out complaint fires and appease customers, the reality is that they do so much more. Did you know, 73% of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps, reports RightNow.
Customer service is the front line for your business. They make or break the customer experience. Want more proof? New Voice Media also reports that the #1 reason customers switch to a new brand is that they feel unappreciated, while 78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to poor customer experience.
Starting to see how customer service impacts sales? If you need more convincing, consider that consumers are willing to spend 17% more on a company with outstanding customer service, reports American Express, and 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service, according to HubSpot Research.
When the customer service team is operating at peak efficiency, they do much more than resolve issues. They foster relationships with customers. They put smiles on their faces. And they leave a favorable lasting impression of your brand in their minds. All of this equals a high customer retention rate, which means higher revenues. Bain & Company quantified this in a recent report stating that increasing customer retention rates (i.e. keeping customers happy) by just 5% can increase profits between 25% and 95%!
And, if they have the right skill set, personality, and training, your customer service team can actually bring in new business, too. They’ll nimbly move from problem solver to cross-seller or upseller, which increases customer satisfaction -- and your profits. Essentially, they’ll become an extension of your sales team.
In short, the department is absolutely vital to your company’s longevity and growth.
It’s tough for customer service to shine when they’re in conflict with the sales department. And you want them to shine, because as many as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience, according to a Segment Survey. Often selling on commission, your sales team is typically concerned with one thing and one thing only: closing the deal. This revenue-oriented drive can lead them to over-promise things to your customers. And, when the company can’t deliver, customer service is left holding the bag.
Over promising and under delivering comes with a whole host of problems for your customer service department. Those issues include:
And -- the detrimental impact to your customers can’t be overstated. When your company fails to serve them as promised, they’ll rightfully become angry and distrustful. Even worse, you’re likely to lose repeat business and, according to American Express, angry American customers are likely to share their negative experiences with about 15 people.
So, when sales and service are at odds, interdepartmental communication will be poor, job satisfaction will plummet, customer retention will worsen, and the company’s bottom line will suffer. If you can get them in sync, though, you’ll have a happy, tight-knit workforce that closes more deals and delights customers. So, how can you get the two departments on the same page?
As a leader, there are four key things you need to do to improve the interdepartmental dynamic:
Let’s look at each in turn.
The first place to look is your scorecard and your company metrics for success. Do sales and service match up? Are they working towards the same established goals? And, more importantly, do employee behaviors align with those stated success indicators?
For example, if customer service has a goal of responding to all inquiries within two business days, the sales team shouldn’t promise a same-day response. The two teams must act as one and present a clear and consistent message to customers. After all, they are both working towards the same ultimate goal of making the company successful.
Your company needs to make collaboration a normal, celebrated part of doing business that gets prioritized. Ideas and data should flow freely between the two departments. And everyone in the firm, including the sales team, should adopt the mantra that customer service is a mindset, not just a department. Bottom line: the lines of communication must stay open, and the once near-adversarial relationship should become more team-oriented.
To promote unity between the two groups, offer ample opportunities for team building. When sales and service get together in an informal but planned way, they’ll get to know each other as people and gain empathy for one another’s perspective. Sales may think twice about promising the moon to a customer just to make a sale when they know service could have to deal with customer disappointment down the line.
In addition, seeing each other perform their respective roles can be eye-opening. They’ll understand the other department’s challenges and gain respect for everything that goes into being successful in that position. Consider arranging cross-department job shadowing between sales and service at the time of hire - and on an ongoing basis to cement these new perspectives.
And, if appropriate, consider job swapping. An extroverted customer service representative with a competitive streak might enjoy being in sales for a day or two. And a detail-oriented sales associate may benefit from taking on a temporary customer service role. Just be sure you’re not setting your employees up to fail. If their personality doesn’t lend itself to the opposite role, this strategy isn’t a good fit for them - or your unsuspecting customers.
The best philosophies and attitudes don’t mean a thing if the actual company structure and business processes don’t support them. As a leader, you must provide the structure, tools, and resources your teams require to perform at their best. That could mean ensuring adequate communication systems exist (think interoffice messaging) or physically situating the departments closer together in the office to facilitate more face-to-face conversations. The key is to make collaboration as easy as possible.
If you want to better understand your team members and discover ways to help them function as a cohesive group, a Team Dynamic Report can help. Based on the results of our signature behavioral assessment, this report shows how likely each team member is to communicate with each other and reveals deeper insight into their individual strengths and weaknesses. The report will give you an action plan to facilitate collaboration, improve communication, and unify your team.
The report can be customized to fit your firm’s unique circumstances. Getting one is easy. Simply fill out a questionnaire and hop on a quick call with us, and we’ll do the rest!
Sales and service have long been at odds. But, the truth is -- they’re both playing for the same team! Sometimes, employees just need to be reminded of that. As a leader, you have the power and responsibility to foster a winning dynamic between the two groups. When you do, you’ll have an unstoppable, connected workforce that wows your customers and positions your company for long-term success.