xxx) Managing a Team vs. Managing the Individuals on a Team


Managing a team is not the same thing as managing the individuals who make up a team. Differences are based on the task at hand and the makeup of the team. To help handle the situations, there are 4 pertinent questions for managers to consider:

. Is a team, in fact, the best organisational structure for this effort?

In real teams, the leadership role shifts among the members of the team, while in a traditional single-leader unit (SLU) it is not rotated. A real team pools its resources while in SLUs, the leader provides the integration. SLUs can produce faster results in the early stages.

To foster an environment in which an authentic team can come into being, one needs to create the conditions where leadership can shift among all members, and where team members are integrating the work themselves.

. Have I established collective goals which members can personalise, or make their own in a unique way?

The onus is on management to articulate very clear collective objectives for the unit and there needs to be a mutual accountability to them, signalling that they must be shared.

. What signals am I sending to other members, especially early on, about how the team should interact?

The initial part of team development is crucial. It is important that every team member takes responsibility ‐ regardless of power position. At this stage, team members are taking the measure of the one with the more formal authority in the team.

Managing the process of the team's integration of its expertise is essential. The big difference between managing individuals and managing a team is that team members are interdependent. The more they work together, the less they need a manager. Team members should be encouraged to relate to each other and not just through the leader. The leader's role changes from co-ordinating the work of others to being part of the team. The inclusion of everyone on the team in decision-making sends a powerful message about who matters and how the team is to function.

The handling of conflict is an important measure of the team's maturity. Good conflict management involves asking the person who disagrees to explain their position, or to restate the view to help everyone understand it. There is a need to model a style that illustrates that differences are OK and that they should be engaged. This kind of approach signals to team members that their opinions count. A leader needs to be authoritative without being autocratic.

. Does my performance management system actually reward interdependence and mutual accountability?

Appropriate team performance management involves a system of evaluating contributions towards the collective goals and providing performance feedback of the collective as a whole. This must be linked with the reward and recognition systems. On the other hand, most traditional performance management systems, and rewards and recognition systems, are set up for individuals.

It is more important to hire somebody who fits into the team's culture rather than hiring the best and the brightest. Reflecting on the early phase of his career, Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) states that he

"...was too slow to fire someone who had essential engineering skills, but had a negative attitude that hurt the dynamics of the start-up team..."

Jack Dorsey as quoted by Paul Smith et al 2018

It is interesting to note that other team members quickly fill the gap of fired staff.

When he was a GM, Bill Synnot has a similar story of a CFO whose people handling skills were poor. He had convinced the Board that he was indispensable. As his boss, Bill allowed him to go on a month's leave. The board was very nervous about what might happen to the company in his absence. During his absence, his staff demonstrated that the CFO was not needed. So when he came back, he was asked to resign!!!!!

(source: Harvard Management Updates, 1996 ‐ 1999)


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