Organizations in every industry are struggling to deal with the uncertainties that are impacting all aspects of doing business. While unemployment remains high, there is still a shortage of qualified candidates in many disciplines; competitors are becoming increasingly ferocious as they fight for fewer opportunities; technology changes like spring weather; and prices act like they are on an escalator! All in all, this is a stressful time to be a leader in any organization.
There is, however, one rainbow in all the gloom. That is your team. It’s true! Your team is the one thing that can set your organization apart from the rest of the pack.
Highly engaged teams outperform their competitors from 47 to 202 percent. Yet many managers and executives ignore this potential gold mine. That gives you a great opportunity to shine!
Here are 10 Characteristics of engaged team:
1. They have a shared vision of the future that everyone understands and works towards. This sounds so elementary, doesn’t it? Well, when we ask teams why their organization exists, we almost always get a variety of answers. If you don’t have everyone on the same bus heading in the same direction, you will never be successful in getting the desired results.
2. They have motivating goals. It is one thing to have a clear vision, and another thing entirely to have team and individual goals tied to the successful accomplishment of the vision.
3. Clearly defined Expectations – This goes hand in hand with motivating goals. One of the biggest frustrations that we find within teams is that they don’t really know what is expected of them. Now you may be saying to yourself, ‘What kind of an idiot wouldn’t set clear expectations?’ The thing is that often we can see the desired result clearly in our own minds, but when we try to articulate this to others, something gets lost in translation.
4. There is effective communication – One of the most important lessons each of us can learn is that what constitutes good communication for us may not be for the next person (See #3). Skilled team leaders make effective communication a top priority. They don’t just let it happen and hope for the best. There are multiple methods of sharing information in all directions – from the top down, from bottom up, laterally and cross-functionally.
5. A high level of trust and respect is present – According to Steven Covey in his book The Speed of Trust, all organizations pay a “trust tax”. The lower the trust, the higher the trust tax. The trust tax can be described as hidden costs that an organization experiences as a result of needless bureaucracy added to the workload, etc.
6. They learn from mistakes and celebrate successes. Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals said, “Show me a guy who is afraid to look bad and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.” Highly engaged teams are led by individuals who understand that the only way to improve is to try new things. This means risking failure. So, teams need to learn from their mistakes. It is also important to recognize success. Not once a year bonuses or raises, but frequent celebrations that build camaraderie and commitment to the team.
7. Leaders delegate authority as well responsibility – If leaders do not give team members the authority to perform tasks, they will not have ownership of that task. Many leaders think that they must keep tight control, requiring employees to seek permission in order to make decisions. This fosters a culture of WIIFM (What’s in it for me?), the very antithesis of an engaged team. In fact, one major characteristic of a low performing team is the requirement to get authorization or direction before taking action. This greatly diminishes buy-in, enthusiasm, creativity and responsibility.
8. All team members look at themselves as Leaders – Each team member has a sphere of influence. The more this is cultivated into leadership the better for the individual and the team. An important aspect of this is to provide the authority as well as responsibility to complete their tasks (See #7).
9. There is a path and tools in place to solve Conflict – Conflict will always be present at some level. However, the conflict should be healthy. When conflict escalates, productivity decreases (remember the trust tax?). Providing the team with tools and techniques to avoid, manage, and resolve conflict in a productive manner will support team engagement.
10. A Commitment to improvement. If an organization is complacent, that will translate into a team that is satisfied with the status quo. Nothing breeds disengagement quicker than boredom, a natural outgrowth of complacency. People will never bring their best to work if there is no challenge to make improvements. However, continuous improvement is a bi-product of the other characteristics listed here. By establishing a culture that combines these ingredients along with the tools and skill necessary for process improvement, your team can achieve amazing things.
Team engagement is a process not an event. Many companies think that they can have a day of training and they will have an engaged team. In reality those organizations with highly engaged teams make this a part of their strategic plan just as business development or quality is. It is intentional not accidental.
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