It’s a challenge to create and maintain a high performing team, but it’s often the key to organisational success. So how can you manage a finance team to drive results?
A team is a group of people with complementary skills who work together to achieve a common purpose. They hold themselves accountable for the performance of their group and see themselves as one operating unit with several interrelated parts.
The complementary skills element of this is vital to the success of a team–this is how synergy can be created. In other words, how the whole team is more productive and produces a better outcome than the sum of the individual elements ever could.
What are the stages of team development?
Dr. Bruce Tuckman identified 4 main stages of development that teams go through:
- Forming – This is where the team members come together for the first time and get to know each other. This is essentially a social stage and often characterised by politeness.
You should proactively manage the forming stage. Consider social or team building events to help people get to know each other effectively, but also efficiently. Often time constraints mean that this stage needs to be contained to a relatively short time span.
It helps immensely if this can be face-to-face and interactive as much as possible.
- Storming – This is often a turbulent and emotional stage group standards are established. Team members may display differences of opinion as to priorities, objectives and methods.
It’s vital that you manage this stage carefully to ensure that relationships are maintained or even enhanced through this exploratory process.
You should facilitate open discussions and ensure they are as productive and considerate of all team members as they can be. This is often a very creative phase where the task ahead is formed.
- Norming – This is essentially agreeing guidelines and standards. It often involves setting protocols, agreeing on methods for getting things done and for making decisions.
It clarifies the teams ‘procedures manual’. Your job during this phase is to ensure the procedures are likely to work, that there’s ownership and acceptance and that the procedures that have been agreed are complete enough to ensure successful completion of the task.
- Performing – Assuming the first three stages have gone well, the team should be working together in an efficient, effective, proactive and motivated manner.
Depending on the task, your role here will probably be to ensure the team continues to perform to a high standard and is well motivated.
There is a danger, particularly if teams exist for a significant period of time, that they become weary and unfocused to become more member orientated. In other words, team members start to prioritise the social aspects of team life more than the operational ones.
Some have characterised this stage as ‘dorming’ and it needs to be avoided at all costs as team productivity will likely reduce significantly. You can avoid dorming by ensuring there are sufficient short to medium term milestones and that you periodically take time out with the team to ‘reboot’ and re-energise them.
How to Choose your Team
Now we’ve considered how the members of our team will work together, let’s think about how we choose who to have in our team in the first place.
There are lots of qualitative considerations here, such as the balance of personalities and skillsets needed, but you will need to apply careful judgement and experience for the particular team.
Meredith Belbin identified nine roles that need to be present and operating effectively for a successful and high performing team. That isn’t to say you can’t have an effective team with less than nine people in it!
It’s perfectly normal for any given team member to take on several of these roles, and/or for there to be several people taking on any given role in a larger group.
Belbin went on to say that although most people who are socially able can take on any of the 9 roles to a greater or lesser extent, most of us have two or three roles we prefer. Although choosing these roles can be a subconscious choice, you can be more proactive than that.
You could consider what peoples’ natural roles are likely to be in the group and craft a team of people that is likely to work well bearing in mind the full range of roles that are ultimately needed.
A good starting point then is to identify a group of people with the skills and personalities that you think will work together well, but also to consider what you think their natural team roles will be.
You can, to a degree, formalise the roles by considering outlining job descriptions for the different members if appropriate.
Team Management is a complex task that done correctly is hugely beneficial to a task, a project and to the company as a whole.