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Blog post

Leading Teams for Success

May 8, 2017
By GradProSkills

a successful team

Teams can produce amazing results. If you are working by yourself, you have only one way of thinking. In a group – you can feed from each other’s ideas and build on each other’s knowledge and experience. But working in a team is not always easy, especially when members have very different interests, personalities, and motivations. In today’s global market teams are here to stay, so the demand for effective team leaders is increasing exponentially. Worry not, you will be prepared! This week’s blog post aims to provide you with practical tools and strategies that will allow you to lead your team to success in any situation.

Decision making procedures, conflict management, punctuality, emotional expressions, and honesty – team norms are ideas, expectations or sets of rules that guide team member behavior. Norms develop explicitly or implicitly and can either promote or hinder team efforts. As a leader you are responsible for establishing constructive norms and maintaining them on an everyday basis to improve your team’s performance, says Jack Sadek, workshop leader of GPLD 142 Leading Teams for Success. Let’s break down how you can use norms to help your team succeed.

Setting norms

When creating team norms, timing is crucial. The earlier you introduce expectations for your team, the easier it will be for you to enforce them. A common way to establish new norms is by creating a team charter at the beginning of the project, recommends Jack. This document outlines the composition and common goals of the team, clarifies the expected outcomes, defines the roles and responsibilities of each member, and provides a set of best practices for various procedures including conflict management and decision making. Another way of setting norms suggested by Jack is creating rituals such as a regular celebration of team successes. Next time when your team has accomplished a big milestone, why not remind them that it’s time to celebrate and take them out for a meal? Finally, don’t forget to explain early on why a certain rule is put in place and how following it can improve team performance. This way the team will understand your reasoning and have increased trust in your judgment.

Choosing constructive norms

According to Jack, one of the most vital team norms is psychological safety – the confidence that the team will not embarrass reject or punish. In a psychologically safe environment, everyone can discuss their ideas without fear or hesitation. Psychological safety contributes to a sense of openness, increases trust and information sharing, and ensures effective conflict management. How do you promote it within your team? Jack recommends two strategies. First, carefully select all team members. If you choose the individuals with the right attitudes – individuals who are less competitive and more open – you will end up with members who can more easily fit into the team culture. Second, ensure you are a considerate leader yourself – seek team member input and maintain support and respect at all times.

Maintaining norms

One of the best ways to ensure the norms are followed is to be proactive, advises Jack. Interview candidates beforehand and look for the best fit in terms of personality and attitudes. Furthermore, allocate the right tasks to the right people and make sure the assignment is fair. In addition to being proactive, you also need to constantly monitor if the norms are being followed, explains Jack. Address conflicts early, give feedback frequently, and model the right behaviors yourself. If you see a norm is broken repeatedly, step in and remind the individual why the norms are in place. Norms are established for a reason and all individuals must follow them for the team to succeed, says Jack. Yet, don’t forget to listen to the needs of your employees and never assume that norms are immutable. Everyone can be wrong sometimes, even the leader.

For even more strategies for effectively working with teams, take the full GPLD 142 Leading Teams for Success workshop. Now that you know some evidence-based strategies for being an effective team leader, it is time to put them into practice. Look for leadership opportunities during your graduate studies and work on furthering your interpersonal skills by taking our workshops GPLD143 - Professional Negotiation and Persuasion Skills and GPLD141 - Navigating Emotional Intelligence. The entire GradProSkills team wishes you success in your leadership development!

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