Creating and leading a high performing team is a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before, says Craig Gowan MAHRI who facilitates the AHRI short course on creating high performing teams.
Who is this AHRI short course aimed at?
People who’ve just moved into a team management role or people who are taking on larger teams or challenging teams. Oftentimes we get people who are accidentally managing teams, so they haven’t necessarily been drafted into a role specifically to manage a team yet they’ve all of a sudden got people they’re responsible for.
What can people expect?
It follows on from doing self-management work – looking at the differences of managing on your own and managing in an environment where there’s other people that you rely on. Its broad basis follows a five stages of team development theory that’s been around since the seventies – forming, storming, norming, performing and adjournment. I think for a lot of new managers it’s the “I don’t know what to expect” bit that causes the most angst. So this program just says, “these things will happen” and takes the manager through what they need to do as the team moves in its development. There’s coaching and study, then there’s practical experience that we try to create with certain activities.
What’s an example of one of the activities?
One of the really good ones is: you’re shipwrecked. You’re in a group of four and here’s a list of things and you need to rank them one to fourteen. There’s water, there’s a gun, there’s tarpaulin and a range of other things. And you don’t give them any other instructions about how their decision making process is going to work. And you say, “you’ve got 20 minutes.” Invariably there will be different lists and people will react differently. And that’s really what it’s about. That’s what happens in teams. Sometimes the person with the most passion dominates. Sometimes you get a clash. Sometimes you get people who are on the fence. The strangest reactions you see are the childish-type behaviours you see from adults. In that, if you’ve got two people that like to dominate, if one gets more dominant you often see the other withdraw. Then you throw in “here’s what the experts say.” And you put that in the middle of the groups and they’ll argue about the experts.
What’s one of the biggest challenges people will face in this AHRI course?
The bigger challenges will be personal conflicts. Personality clashes. Where people often want to opt out of leading a team because of specific people within that team. And whether that’s a personality clash, whether it’s a styles clash or whether something has happened in the past. Someone has been asked to lead a team and their challenge is “how am I going to deal with this person?” It’s often worse for those people who were in a team, and now they’re going to lead that team. That’s the biggest challenge of all. It’s easier to go into a new team.
In terms of feedback, what do people say was most helpful in the course?
Almost everybody says, the recognition technique about dealing with conflict. We role-played one recently. We got two people to pretend to be the antagonists for this team leader, the two people she was most worried about. She described for us what was happening and we spent about 15 minutes creating these two roles. We had two people that just happened to be good actors in the group and they pulled it off. And we observed – and she observed – that she actually fell into the routine. She wasn’t in the training program anymore, she was managing these two people. We then went, let’s stop. How are you feeling? Is this how you normally feel? Yes. Are you feeling in control? No. So let’s go back to our script, what are you actually trying to say to these two people and how can you say it in an assertive way that keeps them on track?
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