Building Self-Managing Teams

One of the first tasks of a team leader is to build greater team awareness. This is the job of each individual member of the team, as well, but the leader’s job is to instill a sense of responsibility in individuals for the well-being of the team. In order to do so, Cary Cherniss, chair of a well-known research group on emotional intelligence, puts forth ground rules for teams. Everyone on the team should take responsibility for:

  • Keeping the team and team meetings on track
  • Facilitating group input
  • Raising questions about procedures, asking for clarification about where the team is going, and offering summaries of issues being discussed to make sure there is a shared understanding
  • Using good listening skills in discussions

A leader can create a self-managing team. What is important for the leader, emphasizes Cherniss, is to remind the group of its collaborative norms by making them explicit. Everyone can practice them because they are upfront and repeated at each team meeting.

Clearly, the setting forth of core values and operating norms is important to ensure that a team works smoothly together. But like most things, they must be repeated again and again. When values and norms are clear, teams can go about their work even in the absence of the leader.

In self-aware, self-managing teams, members hold each other accountable for sticking to norms. It takes a strong, emotionally intelligent leader to hold the team to such responsibility. Many teams are not accustomed to proactively handling emotions and habits. And many leaders have difficulty stepping out of the role of director in order to let teams self-direct.

However, when the values and norms are clear, and self-management principles are explicit and practiced over time, teams become not only effective, but also self-reinforcing.Front view portrait of four business executives jumping with arms raised Being a member of the team leads to positive emotions that energize and motivate people.

Every company faces specific performance challenges for which teams are a most practical and powerful vehicle. The critical challenge for senior managers is how to develop emotionally intelligent teams that can deliver maximum performance. Executives must foster self-managing and emotionally intelligent teams that will be effective. An effective way of achieving this is through providing coaching, both to individuals and to the team as a whole.

By using a coach, each person on a team understands and leverages the gifts, skills, and strengths they naturally possess. Teams are truly effective when diverse resources and skills are combined to produce results far greater than those that could be produced individually.

It is rare that a group naturally finds itself working smoothly. Humans are complex and that complexity is magnified when people try to work together. There are multiple dynamics and complicated perspectives that come into play. Managing the interplay between team members can require the talents of a symphony conductor in order to bring out the best in people. A masterful coaching experience can help facilitate the symphony that is possible when people work together in harmony.

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