Management December 3, 2009 Last updated February 6th, 2010 3,825 Reads share

“There is nothing as queer as folk” – Small business and team dynamics

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“There is nothing as queer as folk”.  An odd saying but you can certainly appreciate the truth in it.  If you are a people-watcher like me (and even if you are not) you will be aware that people don’t always get along together, don’t always gel.  There is often conflict and clashes of personality and within groups regularly there is confusion about where individuals fit into the overall scheme of things and what role they play.

You often hear it said that “opposites attract” and when you think of couples whom you believe to have a good relationship you will notice that their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths etc. complement each other.  They are not the same, or at least not all the same but they fit well together and give balance to the other person.

We, all of us, know these rules of human nature.

Why is it then that organisations regularly create teams without considering these issues?  There have been lots of theories surrounding team development (five stages according to Bruce Tuckman – Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning) and team dynamics and team roles (think Belbin, Margerison-McCann etc) but I honestly believe that such theories are only considered when something goes wrong, i.e. when the team is not working together as well as it should or there is some sort of conflict.

If you own your own business you will know how important it is to have all “shoulders to the wheel” if your business is to survive and thrive.  Therefore having a high performing team around you is vital.  But how much thought have you actually given to your team and how it works?  Do you realise how much can be gained from even the slightest change in team dynamic?

If you are a sole trader than you can probably stop reading now, (arguably) you don’t have a team as such.  However once you hire your first employee you have created a team.  And if you have already done so it is entirely possible that you fell into the trap (don’t worry you are not the first) of hiring someone that was quite like you.  On the face of it that doesn’t seem like too bad of an idea.  Realistically though if they are too like you they will share many of the same strengths and weaknesses as you rather than complementing you.  Clearly as the team grows this becomes more and more problematic.  Belbin identifies nine different role types which are essentially the behaviours that individuals tend toward in team settings.  Broadly these behaviours are either action based, cerebral (thinking and problem solving) or people oriented. Similarly, Thomas International developed the DISC profile system (which can be used effectively to assess teams) to analyse human behaviour under only four categories but these too are based on behaviours and attitudes.

Regardless of which method or theory you follow the bottom line remains the same.  Failure to recognise the components of your team(s) and to ensure you have the right balance is always going to undermine performance and stop you and your business achieving its goals. Not only is it important to ensure that team members complement each other but that no vital role is missed.  Clearly every team no matter how small needs a leader.  It also needs an ideas person, someone who will take action and drive things forward, a problem solver, a motivator, a person who will bind the team together and someone who will make sure things get finished.  That doesn’t mean you need a lot of different people – if you are a one-person organisation then ideally you need to be all of these things.  But we are what we are and we cannot be “all things to all people”.  Therefore you need to ensure that when you build a team around you it has all of these components.

You have invested everything into this business, heart and soul, blood sweat and tears and probably your life savings. You have a physical location, feel you have a good product or service and that you give your best to the business and have hired your first employees. But if it still isn’t right, if you don’t feel that everyone is pulling in the same direction, don’t worry.  Once you are happy you hired the people with the right skills for the job and you have trained them appropriately you just need to spend some time focusing on them as a team.  Think carefully about roles (not job roles but team roles) and whether team members complement each other.  Just because people work together for the same business, share an office and so on doesn’t make them a team.  And if you are a somewhat bigger business with a management team that doesn’t quite work or are considering hiring a new manager perhaps it is time to take a step back and examine what you have and what you need.  Remember this; people and teams are the heart of any organisation. With a combination of teamwork and cooperation almost anything is achievable.  So getting the team right couldn’t be more important!

Jackie Prendergast

Jackie Prendergast

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