You pick the best people. You organize correctly. But without the right level of participation from everyone involved, even the best, most organized team may fail to realize optimal productivity and performance. That's why every manager and team leader must take every available step to maximize participation. Read on to learn how.
Participation is the key to team results. In practical reality, it takes a team to complete a project, solve a problem and brainstorm strategic decisions. Whether you lead an individual team or an entire department, your ability to motivate that team to success is critical. Along the way, you will have to provide encouragement, direction and inspiration. You will also have to manage team relationships and smooth over the inevitable bumps in the road.
Start with the Right Team Structure
Within any team environment, personality conflicts and territorial disputes will arise, and you have to either overcome or eliminate any potential roadblocks to team success. As a result, your first goal as a team leader or manager is to minimize these potential conflicts by ensuring that your team is structured for maximum participation and collaboration. (Also Read: Organizing for Team Success)
Team commitment and results are dependent upon active participation.... after all, the whole purpose of "teamwork" is to combine resources for better results (i.e. "two heads are better than one...."). Ideas are contagious, and the more ideas, the better, particularly in tough economic times, when budgets are tight, and resources are limited. Team participation can alleviate these burdens, leading to high quality, creative solutions. (Also Read: How to Motivate Your Team)
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Move on to Evaluate Team Participation Needs
To cultivate optimum team participation, you must have a good handle on your goals and overall dynamic. As such, you should be prepared to answer the following questions....
- Why has the team been formed ... for a project, to solve a problem, or to brainstorm?
- How large is the team - should it be re-sized to improve participation and communication?
- Who has been assigned to your team ... have they worked together in the past?
- Do you anticipate any internal conflicts or political situations?
Set the Stage for Team Participation
If you want to achieve optimum team participation, you need to let your team members know what you expect, and what is expected from them. With that in mind, you can lay the foundation for open participation and communication through the following strategies and tactics:
- Participation Strategy #1 - Be direct - ask for participation. Define participation and set appropriate expectations - participation can come in many forms, depending on your team situation.... i.e. in meetings, workshops, memos, written comments and suggestions, etc.
- Participation Strategy #2 - Set the ground rules to encourage active team participation Let everyone know that all ideas are welcome and every member is to be respected.
- Participation Strategy #3 - Push for active participation and engagement from the very start of the project, and even through lulls in the action.
- Participation Strategy #4 - Thank everyone for their contributions - often and visibly.
Above All Lead by Example
As a team leader, you job is to lead, and to get the team to function as a cohesive unit. To meet this goal, you can follow a few simple steps focusing on “leadership by example”:
Tip #1 - Avoid team domination. Your job is to lead, not to control. Even if you have all the answers, let the team dynamic play out.
Tip #2 - Uphold the ground rules ... participation levels will rise when team members can see that all ideas are respected and given due consideration.
Tip #3 – Be sure to ask probative, “out of the box” questions during all meetings and team interactions to stimulate creative thinking.
Tip #4 - Be sensitive to contentious situations. Team conflicts are unavoidable, but at a team leader you can diffuse tense situations as needed with a few strategic words and actions. For example, depending on the circumstances, you may choose to handle a conflict head-on, or you can table a difficult issue for a later time, when emotions have subsided. In any case, you should avoid isolated, off-side reactions to conflicts, and you should always be consistent in how you react to team conflict.
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