When we think about team capability do we consider the team as a whole and how collectively and collaboratively it will deliver and contribute to the organisation’s goals? In my experience, the answer is ‘not enough’ . We are most likely to think about individual strengths, how she or he will deliver in their role, and whether the team will accept / adapt to any new members.
This isn’t entirely surprising. After all, we are encouraged to evaluate individual strengths. But the problem with this thinking is that it’s only one dimension of the way we should view our team if we want to be poised to deliver.
Recently, while watching my daughters play netball, I saw the young team perform a series of perfectly timed, perfectly positioned passes starting from a defensive interception, culminating in a perfectly scored goal (with a cheering coach and excited parents). The ball flowed between team members seamlessly, it all “clicked” and the training seemed to have come to fruition. The elegance and efficiency of their operation achieved the goal with minimal waste of energy – a powerful example of team capability, and one to which all business teams should aspire.
In netball you have 3 seconds before you must pass the ball, so decisions need to be taken quickly, whether you are throwing, catching or defending. You have to judge which of your fellow team members is in the best position to receive the ball and to contribute to moving it further down the court. Every member of the team must make quick and constant adjustments to their position with reference to their fellow team members, taking into account the rules, the boundaries, the opposition strengths, the environment, the court, etc.
Sound familiar? If only teams could work so well in business!
Of course a netball team only has 7 players, with very clear roles and a shared desire to win, which gives good teamwork a head start. However there is much to be learnt from this analogy. Just imagine how you could grow your team capability if you had the same focus and a shared mindset combined with that willingness to flex and adapt, a good understanding of the team’s combined strengths and the confidence to take quick decisions?
How to grow team capability
Collaboration is a key aspect of team capability. Unlike individual performance where the focus is only on your own workload, working as a key member of a team requires the will to understand what your colleagues offer, and then to adapt, support, challenge, plug gaps and keep a strong focus on what needs to be achieved. It may mean doing something not in your skill set or defined role to ensure the team delivers – that’s why flexibility is key.
To build and maintain this kind of responsiveness within the team. each member needs to be prepared to step outside rigid role parameters to support the collective accountability of the team. They also need to be working towards common goals and objectives. Clarity of purpose can be evaluated by observing discussions and decisions about, tasks, priorities, timelines and resources in order to meet those goals. Too often the purpose is poorly defined and the team struggles endlessly to balance priorities.
But that’s not all. High performing teams understand their team capability but also the expectations of their stakeholders, their suppliers, their customers – the people they interact with. To truly grasp this, they need to see themselves through the eyes of colleagues. Once the team know how they are viewed by people they have key relationships with (via a Team 360 or similar), they can judge whether to tweak their approach or processes, spend time developing relationships or introduce something new. Key words I frequently use here when discussing these relationships is influencing, listening, lobbying and challenging.
So, in summary, to maximise their team capability, effective teams need shared commitment to common goals, a good understanding of each other’s strengths and an even better understanding of how they are viewed by the people they serve or interact with. That’s why influential and revealing tools like Team 360s can give teams such a powerful boost.