Two Dos and One Don’t For Managing Your Team Better

Diverse teams produce better results by making better decisions and leveraging the diverse talents, experiences and personalities of the team. How can you make your team work better?

“I presented my proposal to the team, but I when I asked if there were any questions, no one said anything. What am I doing wrong?”

Do get to know the diversity of your team. What characteristics are dominant?

Diversity is a characteristic of a group not of an an individual. So, start thinking of your group as the compilation of the characteristics of each team member.Diversity also goes beyond demographics. Every group has a range of characteristics. Which characteristics are dominant? How are you structuring your work to leverage your non-dominant characteristics? Examples like:

· Is your team dominated by risk takers? How do you treat the members who are risk averse? Do you roll your eyes when in-house counsel mentions concerns? Do you stop inviting those members to meetings?

· Are there team members who have been at the company a long time? Do they use the phrase “this is the way we’ve always done things”? How do you react to that? How do you balance institutional knowledge with a need for change?

· What perspectives aren’t included on your team, and how can you include them? Cross-functional teams are popular in some companies, but they are often hard to administer. Can you add input from other perspectives without formalizing it into the team?

“I get frustrated at these meetings when no one wants to hear about how decisions will affect the compliance group, so I just stop talking.”

Don’t call on me! Really. Don’t.

One of the most ineffective tactics to use to seek input is to call on people in meetings without warning. It isn’t just that there are people who don’t like to speak up at meetings (which there are), but putting people on the spot is not the way many people like to work. In our analysis of teams, there’s usually a strong representation of people who like to ponder something more, delve deeper or even just have a chance to focus on the issue. Don’t underestimate this element of your team. In the teams we have analyzed, this faction is often at least 25% of a team. This is true even in fast-paced environments like at high-growth technology companies.

How do you manage this? In fast-paced environments, it’s easy to rush into decisions because of time mismanagement. If you are calling a team meeting on a topic, you almost always have some amount of time to send some information in advance. Set a deadline for when the decision needs to be made. Allow for your team members to give feedback to you in a variety of ways.

For day to day situations, advance preparation is often cumbersome and issues may crop up unexpectedly. In those situations, frame the issue and identify the time and format of the decision-making process.

“I hate the Monday morning team meeting. I never know what to expect. And, I sit there dreading getting called on.”

Do focus on asking questions rather than deciding (at first)

Have you ever noticed that when presented with a new idea, the first responses are often negative or skeptical? Research into decision making demonstrates that negative reactions are typically first to surface. We also know that these negative reactions can silence other voices and narrow the options considered. A simple tactic is to present an idea or information and then have each person individually write down questions and comments. This structured pause and focus on questions will get better feedback from your team.

Diverse teams produce better results, but only if you manage for the diversity of the group. Make sure that dominant group characteristics don’t dominate and silence others.

Barbara Clarke