Sep 30, 2015
Everyone who knows me, knows of my food love affair. So I thought, why not combine my love of food, and my work to write this month’s blog. Now the Aussie meat pie is a special thing, yet widely available. There are many opinions and heated debates over what makes one pie better than another. I have also found this to be true when discussing what makes a great team, and as diverse in opinion. Three critical elements that affect people’s perception are the type of crust, the filling, and that special “X” factor.
The Pastry Crust
The best tasting pie in the world won’t be a success if the pastry casing falls apart. The crust needs to have substance and be robust enough to hold the filling, yet still be tasty and light. In terms of the team, this would imply that no matter how great the individual team members, if they are not harnessed to work professionally together, the team may fall apart. The crust therefore needs to have:
- A structure. In the team, this means that goals are defined and every member of the team understands how their individual contribution contributes to the bigger picture.
- Team Education. This creates opportunities for cross-pollination of skills and expertise, and also to learn from mistakes made and how to fix them. As a result, if a database is assembled, future mistakes can be avoided. It also minimises re-inventing the wheel, if methods and rollouts from previous projects are recorded. Weekly training sessions with knowledge and experiences shared between the team accelerates the learning.
- Coach and Mentor. You the manager, keep the pie together and just as one type of pie crust is better for a particular type of filling, so too, different management skills assist the team to excellence. Feedback is a minimum requirement, either positive or constructive, which aims to correct, or acknowledge behaviour. The frequency of this feedback is critical and should be as close to the action of the team member(s) as possible.
Ah, the filling. I could go on at length as to the different types of fillings, just as we have different types of teams, but I’m going to simplify and simply say, one that tastes good! So what affects the flavour and pleasure of the filling?
- Quality ingredients. The right mix and quality of people who will have to work together in the team need to be carefully selected, not only for their skill set, but for their ability to interact and get on with one another. Likewise, the right ingredients need to be put together to get the flavour right. The right talent and the right attitude, preferably together in the same individual, should produce a premium or quality mix.
- Cooking method. Nurture the talent in your team and try to encourage them to work in areas that they really enjoy, where possible. Find out their ambitions and under what conditions they work best. If you treat your people (ingredients) right, the outcome will surely be optimal. Also, some people prefer a direct approach, while others prefer more subtle interaction. Understanding that everyone is unique in their needs will lead to them trusting your judgement and values.
- Seasoning. Here, I am referring to being able to add some spice to the efforts of the team. This may be in the form of a compliment, or an expression of gratitude, or acknowledging a job well done. At all times, it should be sincere and appropriately timed. I find that when people hear of the word “reward”, they associate it with cash, or a bonus. While this may eventuate, employees always like to be recognised and acknowledged, preferably in front of their peers. Seasoning is critical to the final effect on the pie, and may make the difference between an acceptable pie, and an exceptional one.
The “X” Factor
The team, even a leaderless team, needs to encourage leadership potential. If you are the team leader, then you need to nurture and grow these leaders because they have the capacity to inspire others and see the strategic vision of the business. What this means is that you will be the servant leader, who removes the hurdles that prevent the team from achieving success.
The filling needs to be a harmonious mix of flavours and there should be no jarring elements. A team that functions smoothly and in synchrony delivers more than just the completion of tasks. It builds resilience, trust and rapport, and individuals start looking out for others in the team to make sure that no one falls behind.
From the leader’s point of view, keeping team members in the loop, giving regular feedback, and celebrating the achievements along the way, enhances the way the team feels about itself. It becomes a truly memorable pie!
For more information, have a look at New Horizons' Management and Leadership courses.