Building synergy in teams

Leader’s job is to understand roles, personality traits
By Maysa Hawwash
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/26/2013

Team effectiveness is a prevalent topic in many business conversations, especially as companies explore new ways of working. Virtual teams, flexible work environments, restructuring through mergers and acquisitions — these all affect team play and require skill and foresight to properly manage and positively influence their effectiveness.

Understanding the personalities of the individuals who make up a team is critical to influencing team performance, and understanding how teams add value within a business is key to driving organizational performance.

A real team is made up of a group of people who share a passion for a common, collective goal. They know achieving that goal demands a high level of interdependency and when teams are working well, they create synergy — the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So why is personality so important for the success of a team? To answer this question, let’s first draw a comparison between high-performing and low-performing teams.

A high-performing team understands its goal and is passionate about what it’s doing. It finds new and innovative solutions every day and consistently achieves extraordinary results. The team enjoys a positive, engaging culture that supports the free flow of ideas and creativity. Team members regularly acknowledge each other’s contributions and deliver honest, timely feedback in the spirit of continuous improvement. They are interested in knowing each other and have formed a bond of trust.

A low-performing team lacks these positive elements. Their passion, creativity and trust are not strong enough to deliver anything more than mediocre results. Where the high-performing team asks, “How can we?” this team asks, “Why can’t we?” This environment suffocates productivity and this, in turn, directly affects bottom-line performance.

4 types of teams

There are four types of teams to consider:

Functional team: Permanent in nature — its goal does not change over time.

Cross-functional team: Assembled of people from multiple departments and focused on a project with a specific timeline.

Self-directed team: Operates without direct management.

Virtual team: Works from afar toward a common goal, communicating through the web or by phone.

8 roles within the team

There are then eight roles that contribute to success in those various teams:

Practical: This role is about turning team ideas into workable outcomes and is effective when tasks have known precedents, clear-cut guidelines and concrete, measurable results.

Consulting: This role’s prime concern is how the team works together and ensures individual talents are optimized.

Driving: People in this role push hard and drive a team towards its objectives. The “driver” is valuable when a team needs to perform on a very tight schedule.

Creative: This role derives satisfaction from finding new ways of doing things. People in this role are innovative and likely to be unconcerned with practical details. They are needed when a team’s objective requires unusual solutions and demands complementary team members who are good at execution.

Catalyst: These individuals are lively communicators who easily connect with all the roles. They always seem to know who is doing what, who knows what and who controls what. They are enthusiastic starters of projects and their enthusiasm is contagious. This role is critical in a cross-functional team where success is predicated on the ability to work with and access support from other internal groups or external parties.

Critical judge: This is the calm critic. She has sound judgment and understands what makes some things work and others not. She is quick to point out the flaws in ideas, making her ideal for quality assurance. This is a necessary role for projects where there is a high cost to mistakes. Although these individuals add value, they may not be liked by the creative and driving roles.

Supportive: These people gain satisfaction from managing relations within the group and promoting team spirit. They are outgoing, supportive, considerate and good listeners and mentors. This role is necessary for long-term functional teams where the possibility of losing momentum increases with time.

Detailed: The person in a detailed role is meticulous, orderly and conscientious and his drive is to get things “just so.” The role is perfect for monitoring schedules and providing quality control.

Let us now consider the ninth role — the leader. No high-performing team is without strong leadership that provides a framework of ground rules in which to operate and a clearly defined and communicated common goal.

A great leader is able to get the “right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people into the right seats,” according to Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. However, it is important to understand that the right mix of skills and experience does not guarantee the success of a team.

A true leader is successful at maintaining a balance of task and relationship orientation. She does this by creating an environment that fosters synergy and collaboration; promoting effective communication and resolving conflicts.

To successfully steer a team, the leader must understand the personality traits and behavioural tendencies of his team members. Many tools exist to aid in this endeavour, such as personality assessments, which provide key insights into individual traits and how people interact within a team.

The art of combining skills and personalities to build a high-performing team is not magic but a science, a science that requires passion, vision and care. Only with these elements can one realize a truly effective team that achieves things a group of individuals never could.

Maysa Hawwash is director of talent management solutions at Drake International in Toronto. She can be reached at (416) 216-1067, mhawwash@na.drakeintl.com or for more information, visit www.ca.drakeintl.com.

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