How to Develop Successful Work Teams Using Rhetorical Maneuvers

Solutions for Effective Team Building Maneuvers

The talk in the workplace during the uncertainties in the global markets centers around the many nuances about how to become a team, the differences between teams and groups, what it takes to work as a team and how to make the team more effective, but few people have come to understand what it really takes to develop a great team that performs with extraordinary results! Being a part of a team that most can count on, in the broadest sense, requires the right people coming together with skills and talents to compliment one another to achieve the desired effects of the sponsoring organization and leadership. It has much to do with the people possessing the passion to be great, in order for their behaviors to stimulate great outcomes and their understanding of the future picture – the mission and objectives – and how to achieve the overall purpose of the organization.

People selected to become a member of a team must be prepared to contribute to the environment and overall success of the organization. They must put their personal feeling aside and work towards a significant level of Personal Proficiency that translates into increased levels of Professional Mastery. When assigned to a specific task, they must understand and be in tuned with their situational awareness; unified to the heart beat across other departments of the organization and members to accomplish the overall objectives. The future picture must drive their actions and performance to do what is needed to win.

People must differentiate the overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing working groups that is formed to accomplish a specific goal. People confuse these two team building objectives. This is why so many team building trainings, programs and seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures by the participants who attend. The facilitators would normally fail to define the differences of the two, “groups” and “teams,” and the participants would leave not having a comprehensive understanding for the team they would like to achieve. Developing an overall sense of team work is much different from building an effective, focused work team when considering the approach to take to engage effective team building maneuvers.

The Differences between Teams and Groups

In 2007, a conversation between an Adjunct Professor in the Human Resource Development department at a Philadelphia university and I took place. The Professor posed an interesting statement about teams and groups from one of his clients in the workplace. He started off by asking; “what is the difference between a group of people that work together towards achieving an initiative and a team doing the same?” I answered by posing a question of my own; “when does a group become a team?” This exchange stimulated a lengthy conversation and we were in agreement that the same took place with deeper meaning in the workplace. I went on to say, “the definition of a team is best described as a small group of individuals with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a common goal and approach for which they hold each other accountable.” This definition would presume that the behaviors of a team are decidedly different from a group.

The best size for teams is 6-12 individuals. Larger teams require more structure and support; smaller teams often have difficulty meeting when members are absent. Members have skills and abilities that complement the team’s purpose. Not all members have the same skills, but together they are greater than the sum of their parts. On teams, members share roles and responsibilities and are constantly developing new skills to improve the team’s performance. They work in a democratic fashion with every voice having an opportunity to be heard. Teams identify and reach consensus on their common goal and approach, rather than looking to a leader to define the goal and approach. Again, and most importantly, teams hold their members accountable – very accountable! What does this mean in practical terms? When they experience conflict with a member, they speak to that member directly rather than to a supervisor. When a member is not performing to the level required, the team addresses, or self disciplines, the performance issue.

As we continued on in the conversation, the Professor decided to define the groups’ perspective and functions. He went on to say, “a group can be defined as a small unit of people with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a leader’s goal and approach and are willing to be held accountable by the leader. A group supports the leader’s goals and the leader-dominated approach to goal orientation and achievement. A group drives individual accountability rather than shared accountability. Leadership is predominantly held by one person rather than the shared, fluid leadership on a team. In a group, the dominant viewpoint is represented much different from the team’s democratic approach with voice where multiple, diverse viewpoints are represented. Decisions in a group are made by voting or implied agreement; decisions on a team are typically made by consensus.”

When taking on the approach of defining the two, teams and groups, it is unfair to say that one is better than the other. A good question to ask would be, “when is it best to develop and use a group and when do you make the extra effort to develop a team?” It’s important to understand that groups are much easier and less complex to form than teams. Groups work best when the decisions and process are already determined, buy-in is not necessary, time is a critical factor and there is split or minimal management support for teaming. To form a group, it is best to identify a very strong and confident, effective leader and empower the person to recruit group members, formulate the goal/orientation and approach for driving decisions to be made. This approach would be practical for short-term projects where the outcomes are already defined.

Teaming, on the other hand, should be used when you need a broad buy-in for the greatest level of performance output, when no one person has the answer and when shared responsibility is important to the success of the goal and meeting objectives. To achieve a real team is difficult and time-consuming, yet achieving a great team is almost improbable. Great teams require specific ingredients such as time, trust, positive organizational behaviors and more. There is no silver bullet or magic dust that will transform a group into a team overnight. It takes an enormous amount of time, along with lessons learned from mistakes to craft the necessary skills that work well together. And, a comprehensive understanding how to solve problems, challenges and issues when they show up – and, make the right decisions effectively.

The conversation finished by the end of a twelve week semester with both of us coming to a common ground about teams and groups. We decided that organizations must decide on their short and long-term objectives before deciding on which direction they should journey. Also, senior leadership must be prepared to ask the people involved, “what would it take to be a real, high performance unit?” Then, as they brainstorm the answer, they must challenge the stakeholders and themselves to press onward to become the very best they can be to achieve the future picture of the organization. We also agreed that the team approach using the characteristics found within the outlined “twelve Cs for effective unit development” is the best approach organizations can use to overcome any uncertainties that lie waiting in the marketplace. The stakes are far too high and an extraordinary team of individuals will be needed to win.

Twelve Cs for Effective Unit Development

Most team building programs don’t achieve anything in the long term, even if they appear to have worked in the short term. Changing behavior takes time. You cannot expect people to change their behavior and continue with those changes from a two or three day training experience.

The focus of team building must be on improving results, not just improving relationships.

The process starts by measuring how clear team members are on their purpose, vision, values and goals, and goes on to focus on the maneuvers and all aspects of the team dynamics for achieving those goals.

It is important to know that no matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality management, lean manufacturing and Human Sigma, or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for internal and external customers. Few organizations and leaders, however, are totally pleased with the results their team improvement efforts produce.

If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, the “twelve Cs for effective unit development,” a self-diagnosing checklist might tell you why. Successful team building maneuvers that develop effective, focused work teams require attention to detail in the following areas. It is important to think about the many questions posed to ensure the appropriate discussions are stimulating directional flow towards the team’s success.

1. Clear Expectations: Has executive leadership (to be successful, there must be buy-in from the top) clearly communicated its expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created? Is the organization demonstrating consistency of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and interest directed its way by executive leaders?

2. Context: Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organization attain its communicated business goals? Can team members define their team’s importance to the accomplishment of goal orientation? Does the team understand where its work fits in the total context of the organization’s goals, principles, posture, vision, organizational behavior and values?

3. Commitment: Do team members want to participate on the team? Do team members feel the team mission is important? Are members committed to accomplishing the team mission and expected outcomes? Do team members perceive their service as valuable to the organization and to their own careers – is there a “win-win?” Do team members anticipate recognition for their contributions? Do team members expect their skills to grow and develop on the team? Are team members excited and challenged by the team opportunity?

4. Competence: Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? (As an example, in a process improvement initiative, is each step of the process represented on the team?) Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill and capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not, does the team have access to the help it needs? Does the team feel it has the resources, strategies and support needed to accomplish its mission/objectives and future picture?

5. Contract: Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision, posture statement, Memorandum of Understanding and strategic intent to accomplish the mission. Has the team defined and communicated its goals; its anticipated outcomes and contributions; its timelines; and how it will measure both the outcomes of its work and the process the team followed to accomplish their task? Does the leadership team or other coordinating group support what the team has designed?

6. Command and Control: This can be defined as the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated team leader or members on a team over assigned and attached resources in the accomplishment of the organization’s mission. That being said, does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to feel the ownership necessary to accomplish its contract? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries? How far may members go in pursuit of solutions? Are limitations (i.e. monetary and time resources) defined at the beginning of a project before the team experiences barriers and rework? Is the team’s reporting relationship and accountability understood by all members of the organization? Has the organization defined the team’s authority? To make recommendations? To implement its plan? Is there a defined review process so both the team and the organization are consistently aligned in direction and purpose? Do team members hold each other accountable for project timelines, commitments and results? Does the organization have a plan to increase opportunities for self-management among organization members?

7. Collaboration (Coalition of Forces): Does the team understand team and group process? Do members understand the stages of group development? Are team members working together effectively interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and responsibilities of team members (Concept of the “Bus”)? Team leaders? Can the team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and measurement jointly? Do team members cooperate to accomplish the team contract? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as LeaderShaping, conflict resolution, consensus decision making and meeting management? Is the team using an appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan?

8. Communication: Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Does the organization provide important business information regularly? Do the teams understand the complete context for their existence? Do team members communicate clearly and honestly with each other? Do team members bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and addressed? Do team members understand that conflict is necessary for lessons learned?

9. Creative Innovation: Is the organization really interested in change? Does it understand the contextual implications for the change? Does it value creative thinking, transformational thinking, unique solutions and new ideation? Does it reward people who take reasonable risks to make improvements? Or does it reward the people who fit in and maintain the status quo? Does it provide the training, education, access to publications and textual resources, performance management assessments and infield trips necessary to stimulate new thinking?

10. Consequences: Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Do team members feel responsible and accountable for other team members? Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? Not successful? Is reasonable risk respected and encouraged in the organization? Do team members fear reprisal? Do team members spend their time finger pointing rather than resolving problems during the necessary Debrief sessions? Is the organization designing reward systems that recognize both team and individual performance and organizational behavior? Is the organization planning to share gains and increased profitability with team and individual contributors? Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team and individual strategic execution tactics? Can contributors see their impact on increased organization success?

11. Coordination: Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups to obtain what they need for success? Are teams coordinated by a designated “Red Team,” one who works to employ contingency script that assists the team with working out problems and challenges as a precursor to engaging the mission? Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Have the proper configurations or reconfigurations been made and planned for across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer – the next process, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service? Are cross-functional and multi-department teams common and working together effectively and efficiently? Is the organization developing a customer-focused process-centric orientation and moving away from traditional departmental thinking?

12. Cultural Change – Collective Behaviors: Does the organization recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling organizational culture of the future is different than the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be? Is the team a networked unit or hierarchical one? Is the organization planning to or in the process of changing how it rewards, recognizes, appraises, hires, develops, plans with, motivates and manages the people it employs? Does the organization plan to use failures for learning and support reasonable risk? Does the organization recognize that the more it can change its climate to support teams, the more it will receive in pay back (ROI) from the work of the teams?

Spend time and attention on each of these “twelve Cs for effective unit development” to ensure your work teams contribute most effectively to your business success. In a position of leadership, your team members will respond favorably, your business will soar to new heights and empowered people will “own” and be responsible for their work processes. Everyone will find his/her voice. Can you ask for anything better in the workplace than what is proposed here?

Strengthening the Depth of the Organization’s Leadership Bench

Switching gears for a brief moment, people in every industry talk about team building and working as a team, but few understand how to create the experience of team building or how to develop an effective team. Many view teams as the best organization design for involving all staff associates in developing business success, productivity and profitability. It is here that leaders must take on the significant task of developing the design, while at the same time, use their teams to strengthen the depth of the organizations leadership bench. How is this possible? It’s quite simple; as individuals work to achieve Personal Proficiency for their role in the organization, leadership must begin the rotation process to ensure that each person in the system also achieves an increased level of Professional Mastery at each job task. When the rotation begins to show positive organizational behaviors from the people within the different areas and departments, this too will result the beginnings of a dynamic team being formed on behalf of the organization. The rotation process works to accelerate your team building maneuvers and development success.

Nothing’s more crucial to a company’s performance and existence while faced with uncertainties in the marketplace than the cultivation of its future leaders. So why do so many organizations possess a lack of depth within their leadership benches? This is a question that plagues so many companies and is cause for concern for senior leaders who are seeking to expand their vision, but can’t seem to maximize the needed inertia to do so.

Some organizations that have their own leadership development programs over rely on competency models that identify the so-called generic traits (“vision” and “alignment to mission”). Executives then make the profound mistake by attempting to cultivate the “next-generation leaders” who fit the program deliverables versus having them weave into the existing fabric to increase its durability. Here’s a glimpse from such a scenario; “titled leaders who aren’t equipped to manage their organization’s unique challenges to achieve the expected and desired effects needed to win in the marketplace.”

Other organizations fail to realize that extraordinary leadership is the result of many ingredients in the pot of stew. Extraordinary leadership, the state of influence that is needed when systems are faced with daunting uncertainties, requires a networked environment filled with significant empathy towards building relationships with skilled individuals and teams who knows what it takes to strategically execute. Creating depth or strengthening the leadership bench must be maneuvered from every level of the organization to overcome the shallow pools of candidates for strategically vital jobs. One of the ways of achieving this would be to practice the concept of the “Law of the Bank:” a four pillar approach that focuses on the areas within interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to understand oneself, while interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand others.

The development process breaks them into two solution-centric “quotients” for a deeper understanding of their value to an organization’s leadership life cycle:

Intrapersonal Command Quotient

~ Self Awareness – The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. This is also known as “The Law of SPACE.”

~ Self Regulation – The ability to control or re-direct disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment and think before acting. This is also known as “The Law of the BENCH.”

~ Motivation – A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money and status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. This is also known as the “Law of CARE.”

Interpersonal Emotional Quotient

~ Social Skills & Empathy – A proficiency in managing relationships and building networks; the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. This is also known as “The Law of TAPE.”

As an art form and skill, these pillars each offer a “learnable-teachable” perspective that individuals at each level in an organization “must” acquire in order to be highly successful (achieving personal prosperity). The Law of the Bank reveals the gap between rhetoric and reality; what you think you’re saying vs. what you’ve actually communicated and the differences between leadership “investments” and leadership “withdrawals.” It means that people in all disciplines across the organization must learn two very specific intelligences: “Social Intelligence” and “Emotional Intelligence.” Combined with “behaviors,” “values” and applying the “5 Minds for the Future,” no limitations can be placed in front of an individual’s approach to lead effectively – themselves and others – and achieve his/her goals successfully into the future.

We seem well overdue to make the Law of the Bank a developmental priority in our early education, schooling, adult learning processes and in business. Children and teen-agers need to learn to win the fellowship and respect they crave. College students need to learn to collaborate and influence others effectively. Leaders need to understand and connect with the people they’re appointed to lead and the processes they are responsible to manage. And, people need to understand the social context they operate within and “how-to” achieve their objectives by working from empathy.

All professionals across all industries and disciplines, in their careers and personal lives, need to be able to present themselves effectively and earn the respect of those they deal with. The concepts outlined in the Law of the Bank “can and will” reduce conflict, create collaboration, build trust and credibility, increase deportment, replace bigotry and polarization with understanding and mobilize people toward common goals. Indeed, it may be – in the long run – the most critical aspect in life’s learning and an important ingredient in our survival as a species, professionals in the workplace and leaders hoping to succeed in and away from their work environments.

Let’s Debrief the four pillars that make up the Law of the Bank:

The Law of TAPE: There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. That one thing is trust.

The Law of CARE: Understanding this law requires people to have a keen insight on two very different, yet very similar and in most cases, a misunderstood use of “leadership” and “management.” This law identifies the two and when they apply to best maximize and optimize their uses in any scenario. Simply put; its all about “influence” and “process.”

The Law of the BENCH: Your actions determine what people think of you and establish your reputation. They also determine how others will respond to what you do and say. The way to have character is to always make sure that you are honest, honorable and forthright. Make sure there is no implication of dishonesty in any form. Depth of character, as defined by this law, means you should always seek to be considerate of others and conscientious in your business dealings. This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, but it “does” mean that you are trying to be someone of high character. In business, leaders need to be honest and reliable. Your reputation affects how people deal with you. Having good character, or a significant and visible depth, results in others respecting you and increases your own esteem. Having character requires a constant effort.

The Law of SPACE: Understanding this law, people must understand the critical importance of dealing in both spheres almost at the same time, while doing it flawlessly. Social Intelligence navigates organizational politics while “dealing with people.” Emotional Intelligence takes on the approach of microinequities: a unique leadership discipline designed to promote true diversity through an awareness of the effects of verbal and non-verbal languages and cultural functions on productivity in the workplace. It helps people with understanding how to deal with people by first becoming tuned-in on “self-awareness and self-management:”

o S/ Skill Dimension: [S] Situational Radar (Awareness)

Involves: The ability to “read” situations, understands the social context that influences behavior, and chooses behavioral strategies that are most likely to be successful.

o P/ Skill Dimension: [P] Presence

Involves: Also known as “bearing,” presence is the external sense of one’s self that others perceive: deportment, confidence, self-respect and self-worth.

o A/ Skill Dimension: [A] Authenticity

Involves: The opposite of being “phony,” authenticity is a way of behaving which engenders a perception that one is honest with one’s self as well as others.

o C/ Skill Dimension: [C] Clarity

Involves: The ability to express one’s self clearly, use language effectively, explain concepts clearly and persuade with ideas.

o E/ Skill Dimension: [E] Empathy

Involves: More than just an internal sense of relatedness or appreciation for the experiences of others, empathy in this context represents the ability to create a sense of connectedness with others; to get them on your wavelength and invite them to move with and toward you rather than away and against you.

Using the concepts outlined for the law of the Bank, you can improve the coaching and development process by giving superior performers the opportunity to truly understand their multiple intelligences. What better way is there to strengthening the depth of the organization’s leadership bench? When people are able to get through the rotation of learning the concepts here, can you imagine the development process that the organization will possess to form the dynamic people skills and experiential learning? What about overcoming the improbability of developing extraordinary teams who perform at high levels to achieve the organization’s desired outcomes? Without attempting to develop a teaming process, the rotation will do it for you, all the while, working to cultivate a superior culture that will be protected by the people within the system.

In closing, the title “How to Develop Successful Work Teams using Rhetorical Maneuvers” is posed as a “call to action” for stimulating behavioral influences that might lead to success. On the other hand, just about anyone can get results for a quarter or two. But, it takes an exceptional leader who knows how to effectively manage, to unleash the potential of the environment and execute well to “write a new story” of success for generations to follow.

Strengthening the depth of the organization’s leadership bench using the “twelve Cs for effective unit development” and the “Law of the Bank” as the way forward is unique; a new approach to thinking critically about “self” and others that helps leadership teams embark the battlefields of life and win extraordinary results in the end. Organizational leadership, and its many disciplines, “must” provide individuals with a set of organizational behavior tools that helps them meet ALL of today’s and tomorrow’s uncertainties and challenges. Here’s a great quote to close out this article:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This information is offered as a blueprint for leaders to follow and explains “how to develop successful workplace teams.” I hope you enjoyed the article and are able to use the information to develop better working teams in your current organization. Please feel free to share this information with your colleagues to also help them with understanding their role as developmental leaders across their organizations.

God Speed as you continue to develop your teams into greatness.

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